The Central Virginian

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Louisa toddler defies expectations after drowning

Posted on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 5:14 pm

Ashley and Joel Michael play with their son, Luke, at Louisa Town Park less than a year after the child drowned in an Orange County koi pond.

The Michael family has lived through every parent’s nightmare.

One day last March started out like a dream come true. Ashley and Joel Michael were finally getting a wedding ceremony—one like most every girl dreams of—after having been married for a decade.

They’d been wed in January of 2007 by a justice of the peace and had decided to renew their vows at a picturesque bed and breakfast facility in Orange County.

The couple’s four children—Bayleigh, 9, Devin, 8, Ethan, 7, and little Luke, who was only 2, were all along for the ride, and all were involved in the process of setting up the tent and making everything perfect. Perhaps a little too involved. In fact, Ashley and Joel were so busy with getting everything ready that they had delegated child care duties to someone else.

“It was around 4:30 in the afternoon,” Ashley said, her eyes glazing over as she recalled the worst day of her life. “They came back and we realized pretty quick that Luke wasn’t with them. They had just kind of lost track of him.”

What happened next only took approximately five minutes, according to Ashley, but it felt like it lasted a lifetime.

“Panic, It was pure panic,” Ashley said. “We were covering the property, looking for him. At this point, a couple family members had arrived, and they were helping as well.”

In those few short minutes, they came across a scene that was pulled straight from the nightmare of every parent, every teacher, and every family member or friend that has small children in their life that they care about: They saw Luke, face-down in a koi pond. He was not moving.

Joel jumped in and pulled his youngest son from the water. He was blue, and his skin was cool to the touch. Immediately, Joel and other family members performed CPR on the child, while Ashley called emergency services and received further instructions from 9-1-1 dispatchers.

Orange County EMS was on scene in five minutes, and they were able to get an intermittent heartbeat. They drove to a nearby fire station, where EMS providers continued lifesaving measures including intubation and an intraosseous infusion, where medicine and fluids can be injected into the bone marrow of a patient in a non-collapsible access point. Luke was airlifted, first to Culpeper, then to Charlottesville, where he was treated at the University of Virginia.

Two-year-old Luke Michael had been dead for more than 10 minutes. He had gone without oxygen to his central and peripheral nervous systems for longer than most adults can go without and survive.

(This is a partial story. Read the full version in The Central Virginian’s Feb. 1, 2018 issue)