Just a glance told him enough — his 2-year-old son was floating face down in the backyard pool.
Dustin Doyle dashed toward the water. He jumped into the pool and grabbed his son, who wasn’t moving or breathing.
His wife, Danielle, a doctor, dialed 911 and passed the phone to a friend. Then she scrambled toward her boy, who was blue from head to toe from lack of oxygen, and started CPR.
“I just remember dropping to my knees and thinking, ‘My child is dead,’” she said.
Caleb coughed up water, vomited and began breathing. Danielle Doyle carried him to the front yard of their Bargersville home, where police officers were just arriving. He was hooked up to oxygen and taken to the hospital. But hours later, he was doing well and was released.
Everything seemed fine, until days later when the little boy started struggling to breathe again. And the family went through another big scare, again worrying they would lose their son.
Now, more than a month later, the family is starting to feel like they can return to normal.
Their new normal is more cautious — from making their children wear helmets while riding bikes to always covering their pool.
And their little boy has left a mark on his community.
Their emergency was important even to strangers, including the police officers who were the first to arrive after the 911 call.
Bargersville police officers Brad Moore and Nathan Petro stayed with the frightened parents while they waited for the ambulance and came back to visit later. During their visit after Caleb came home from the hospital, Petro brought Caleb a surprise: a Spider-Man swim shirt to replace the one the medics cut off the day of the pool incident.
Petro has worked as a Bargersville officer for more than a year, and Caleb was the first child he’d helped whose life was in danger. The boy’s near-tragedy touched him deeply, he said.
The officers’ kindness, especially Petro’s thoughtfulness, was humbling, Danielle Doyle said.
“We wanted them to know how grateful we were. How a little can mean a whole lot,” she said.
‘A second chance’
On May 24, the Doyles were hosting a pool party for their daughter’s second-grade class, and only two guests were left when they found their son in the pool. Danielle Doyle brushed her husband aside to perform CPR, vaguely hearing a friend yelling their address into the phone to direct emergency workers to the house.
Caleb began breathing again, and emergency workers arrived.
The Bargersville police officers encouraged Caleb to keep breathing his labored breaths and tried to calm Dustin Doyle, who was sobbing, terrified his son would die.
“As a father, it’s my responsibility to protect him from what happened,” Dustin Doyle said. “Everyone keeps saying, ‘It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.’ No. Really, it kind of is.”
Guilt weighs on him because nothing would have happened to Caleb if he’d closed the pool cover as soon as they took off his life jacket, Dustin Doyle said.
“I was honestly just thinking, ‘Just give me a second chance,’” he said.
Emergency workers cut off Caleb’s swim shirt, hooked him to oxygen with tubes up his nose and drove him to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis. Eight hours later, Caleb seemed healthy again. At 2 a.m., he was laughing. Later that day, the hospital sent him home.
That week, the family went to an amusement park to celebrate Caleb’s recovery.
On May 29, the little boy had a fever, clutched his chest and stopped breathing for seconds at a time, Danielle Doyle said. They headed back to the hospital, where chest X-rays showed that his lungs were clear.
Back at home, Dustin and Danielle Doyle kept an eye on their son. On May 31, or a week after his accident, Caleb woke in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe again. Danielle Doyle called 911 while driving to the hospital, watching her son’s lips turn blue in her rear view mirror. She stopped at a fire station on the way to Indianapolis and got an ambulance ride to the hospital, again with Caleb hooked up to oxygen.
This time, a chest X-ray showed severe pneumonia in Caleb’s right lung, a sickness that was too new to show up in the first X-ray days prior. He had more than a quart of fluid in his chest.
A doctor told the parents that Caleb’s lung was still recovering from filling with pool water, which made him susceptible to catching a virus or picking up a bacteria that caused the pneumonia, Dustin Doyle said.
For five days, the normally active 2-year-old lay in a hospital bed and barely moved. The Doyles again thought they were watching their son die. A surgeon drained fluid from the child’s lungs, and Caleb was given antibiotics to kill the pneumonia.
On June 6, he started taking wobbly walks in the hospital halls, and three days later his parents took him home. Now he’s back to chasing his older brother around the yard and laughing hard.
“God is great, and God is merciful,” Danielle Doyle said.
The Doyles said they have learned they need to take more precautions to care for their children.
That means they’re no longer lax about requiring their children to wear bike helmets when they ride their bicycles. They’re liberal with tick spray when the three children go outside to play. And their eyes are glued on the pool when the cover is off.
Dustin Doyle is going to teach Caleb to swim this summer. The couple don’t want their children to be afraid of water, and learning to be a strong swimmer will be safer long term, Danielle Doyle said.