‘Miracle’ recovery for Snohomish boy who nearly drowned

SNOHOMISH — Travis Anderson came back.

It’s hard for his family to believe it all happened.

Last week, the copper-haired, quick-witted boy played with his siblings at their home just south of Cathcart Way. He snuggled the family dog, built Lego robots and teased his mother about her worrying.

He’s not allowed to run, ride his scooter or play football.

Everybody watches him.

They know he almost died.

On July 13, Travis, 9, was playing in the Pilchuck River near Machias with his mother, Kim Anderson, his sister, Talley, 12, and his brother, Jacob, 10. Travis’ best friend, Jackson, was with them.

The boys were jumping in the water, only a few feet deep. Travis jumped up and the current grabbed his legs, sweeping him downstream and underneath a log.

“I started screaming, ‘Help me!’ Kim Anderson said. “It was a sound I didn’t know I could produce, that I could make.”

She and Jacob tried to free Travis. Talley ran to summon a man nearby, who used his own weight to budge the log while Talley used his phone to call 911.

Once Travis floated free, Kim Anderson immediately began CPR, something she’d been trained in throughout her 14 years working at the Kennedy Space Center near Orlando, Fla.

She remembers looking at Travis and thinking he was gone.

Emergency crews rushed the family to Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Travis spent 15 days in the intensive care unit and another seven on another floor. He was in a medically induced coma for much of that time.

He can remember being jabbed, prodded and fussed over.

“Those nurses came in and out every 10 seconds,” he said.

He pointed to sore spots on his wrists and hands from the IV needles. He’ll have scars.

His first few days awake, Travis got grumpy with the hospital staff, his mom said. She and his dad, Ken Anderson, told him he had to smile, to prove his cheeks were working, so he could go home.

He has some memory loss, but things are getting less fuzzy.

On Travis’ first few outings, without thinking, he’d pick up rocks and lug them home. When his family asked him why, he didn’t know.

A few days later, he remembered his rock collection.

He’s lost 12 pounds, mostly muscle. His lungs still are partially collapsed.

The days in ICU are a blur, Kim Anderson said.

She knows she slept and ate. She knows people came to visit. She can’t remember much but Travis.

“They just kept telling us, ‘It’s hour by hour,’” she said.

At the hospital, Travis’ body was covered in bruises from being stuck under the log and from the CPR. The doctors repeatedly had to test his nerves and reflexes to see if he’d respond to pain. It was hard for his parents to watch.

The doctors told them, “I know that hurts, but that means he’s in there.”

Now, the Andersons have daily doctor’s appointments for Travis, many involving round-trips to Seattle. Normal life seems strange: grocery lists, sports practices, church services.

“You have to make your bed and eat three meals together,” Kim Anderson said.

She described the first few weeks after the accident like crossing a narrow bridge spanning a deep cavern. She couldn’t look over the sides until she knew her family reached the other side, she said.

“We know, considering Travis’ medical condition when he arrived, that his recovery is a miracle,” she said.

Together, the family is grappling with what happened. They talk about it. The kids have questions. Sibling squabbles slowly set back in.

When Travis was hospitalized, his brother and sister often waited at home, not knowing his condition, Talley said.

“It was really scary in the beginning, but it’s really good now that he’s home,” she said.

Someone at the hospital told Travis that for the rest of his life, people are going to ask him about the time he almost drowned. People will want to know.

Kim Anderson wants everyone to learn CPR. It saved her son’s life.

The asphalt in the cul-de-sac where the Andersons live is covered in chalk drawings. Some are warm wishes, and some are thank-yous.

People keep stopping by, to bring sweets but also to see Travis.

On Wednesday, banners of bright yellow butcher paper lined the living room. On them, children had scribbled “Get Well” and “Welcome Home.” There were sponge-painted cut-out hearts and silhouettes of moose heads. People close to Travis call him “Moose,” after Bullwinkle from “The Rocky &Bullwinkle Show.”

During Travis’ hospital stay, family flew in from all over the country to take care of the older kids and the house, Kim Anderson said. Neighbors brought food and tended the yard, unasked. The family doesn’t know where to start with their thanks — so many people did so many kind things.

Travis is set to begin fourth grade at Totem Falls Elementary in a couple of weeks.

Before the month is out, he also must undergo several days of neurological testing they couldn’t do while he was heavily medicated at the hospital. Doctors must monitor the progress of his lungs.

His football team, the Timberwolves of the Silver Lake Football Association, offered to let him be an assistant coach until he can play.

Travis is glad to be home, with “no nurses, no IVs, no needles, no blood-taking,” he said.

For now, he also gets to eat lots of the candy and other treats that people bring.

“I think people worried a bit too much, because I’m healthy, and they’re still bringing 10 tons of food a day,” he said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

Learn CPR

Travis Anderson, 9, of Snohomish, nearly drowned in the Pilchuck River on July 13. Doctors say his mother’s immediate CPR saved his life. The Andersons encourage everyone to learn CPR.

For information about classes, contact the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association or local fire department.

Follow the Andersons’ updates at their Facebook page, “Get Well, Travis” www.facebook.com/GetWellTravis

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