Unresponsive Boy Found on Pool's Bottom Fights to Survive
Robert and Stephanie McDonald remember the day well. It was Superbowl Sunday, 2012, and they had gone to a friend’s home for lunch. As Stephanie was rounding up the kids, she noticed their 2-year-old son Jace was missing.
“She said, ‘We can’t find Jace,’” recalls Robert. “At that point, my friend and I exited the back door and saw the pool gate was open. So we sprinted to the pool and my friend was in front of me. He reached down and grabbed Jace from the pool. And as I saw him come up with Jace in his hand, I just began to cry out, ‘Jesus, my Jesus.’”
“As soon as I knew that Jace was in the pool, I was just in such shock,” says Stephanie. “I was frozen with fear. And I couldn’t move.”
Stephanie called 911 while Robert and his friend Eric performed CPR.
“At that point, we had laid him on the pool deck and he was cold and blue and his pupils were enormous,” says Robert. “There was no color in his eyes. My first thing (thought) was, ‘My son is dead. He’s gone. He’s lifeless.’ And the one thing that was in my mind is, ‘Jesus, Your promises are true.’ So we continued to do CPR and we would trade off, my friend and I.”
EMTs arrived within minutes. Robert stayed with Jace and continued to pray.
“I remember holding his toes and kneeling at his feet. And they were ice cold, like popsicles.”
Captain Joey Ruiz was one of the first EMTs to get there. “As soon as we saw a blue kid, we knew that he wasn’t getting oxygen,” says Captain Ruiz. “So we needed to do whatever we could to get him that oxygen that he was trying to get when he was gasping for that air.”
Chief Chuck Wunder was also at the station that day. “They were not able to get a regular heart rhythm on this young child,” says the Chief. “And so they were beating his heart for him through CPR.”
Jace had to be intubated. Meanwhile, a life flight had been dispatched to a landing area nearby. “We loaded him into the ambulance,” says Captain Ruiz. “And at this point, which felt like forever, we knew that the helicopter was about five minutes on top of us.”
Robert continued to cry out to God. “Our hands were just out and praying that we still have our son alive.”
After the chopper took off, Robert and Stephanie rushed to the hospital. Stephanie remembers it vividly. “I was asking God confidently, ‘Lord, I know that You can do anything. I know that You can bring my son to life. And I pray that You do. But if not, I know that You’re going to comfort us and everything’s going to be okay.’”
They called friends and family to pray. At the hospital, the news was grave. Robert wrote down exactly what the doctor said, in his journal. Robert reads from his journal:
“‘At shift change, Dr. Mike had come in and was very negative. He said that Jace had pneumonia. Antibiotics won’t work, lungs were shot, and it was all over.’ I remember there were a lot of people there coming to visit and support us. And our pastor told them, ‘Hey, it’s time for you guys to head out.’”
By now little Jace was in a medically induced coma. He was also on a ventilator. The question was – For how long? The plan was to leave the vent on until he showed improvement – assuming he lived. But Stephanie had a strong feeling it should be taken off right away so his lungs could recover on their own. So that night, she and Robert prayed about what to do. The next morning, there was no doubt.
“I woke up and I was just so full of peace I can’t even explain it,” remembers Stephanie. “I was singing worship songs and praising God. Robert walked in and he’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ and I’m like, ‘Today, a miracle’s going to happen. Something good - it’s going to happen, I just know it. Jace is going to be OK.’ And we went to the hospital and we walked right in. I told them, “We need to drop Jace’s medication.”
Robert and Stephanie understood the risks, but were convinced it was right course of action. “So as I’m standing there with my arms raised high, I just put all my faith and trust in God. And they pulled that tube from his mouth, he sat up and was breathing on his own. And I remember K-Love playing the Newsboys’ song; God’s Not Dead came on.”
“…and it goes, ‘let love explode and bring the dead to life,’” says Stephanie. And that’s exactly when they pulled that tube out right at that moment. I knew that was God, you know, giving me a little wink saying, ‘It’s OK. He’s going to be fine.’”
“And I just remember Stephanie saying, ‘Can I hold my son?’” says Robert.
“The respiratory nurse said, ‘Yes, you can hold him, do whatever you want,’ says Stephanie. “I grabbed him and I held him. And I just remember thinking that I didn’t think I was ever going to get to hold him again. And that was such a precious moment for me to get to hold him in my arms again.”
In just one week, Jace went home, and he needed no therapy at all. Now four, he loves playing with his three older sisters and little brother.
“I just appreciate the gift and the blessing that he is every day, you know,” says Stephanie. “Every day is just such a gift with my kids, with all of them.”
“Miracles can only be explained by one Person,” says Robert. “And that’s Who created us. And there’s no explanation for seeing my son dead on a pool deck. But today I see him running around, full of life, strong.”
“Do I think it was a miracle?” asks Chief Wunder. “Absolutely it was a miracle.”
“Statistics may say this and the doctors and science may say that, but none of that matters to God,” says Stephanie. “God can do anything! He’s the Great Physician. He’s the One in control!”