Buda boy experiences non-fatal drowning; family shares experience, advice

A day in the life of Kortney Moss and Joshua Saucedo looks a little different from most.

"We have different chairs for everything," said Moss. "He has a bath chair. He has his peapod, which’s a relaxing chair. He has his activity chair."

Their son, 4-year-old Ezera, is learning, and re-learning, after an almost deadly accident a few years ago.

"Being able to grab things and let things go, feeding himself, putting his shoes and socks on his own, just like your basic day-to-day life things that we don't think about on the regular. Ezera is learning to do it again," said Moss, Ezera’s mother.

Ezera experienced a non-fatal drowning when he was just a little over a year old. It happened during the 2021 winter storm when Central Texans were losing power and water.

"It was full survival mode," said Joshua Saucedo, Ezera’s father. "I was out there barbecuing tacos and making food for us… We filled up the bathtub (to save water), and this is what happened." 

Somehow, Ezera ended up face down in the bathtub.  

"Ezera was just walking maybe 15 steps from one room to another, and it was less than five minutes," said Moss.

Then, there was a whirlwind of CPR and driving to the hospital, followed by months spent in the pediatric ICU and in rehab. 

"They put him in a medically-induced coma, for about three or four days. He was intubated, and they essentially prepared us for the possibility of them removing the tubes and him not waking up from it," said Moss. "We did remove the machines, and he did fine breathing on his own. But they did find that he did have a brain injury and an anoxic brain injury due to the lack of oxygen to his brain."

Now, their life consists of medication and therapy, as Ezera is learning to eat on his own and sit up. 

"It takes literally a second or two. Non-fatal drownings, certainly this time of year, happen all the time," said Tim Siegel, executive director of Team Luke Hope For Minds. "We do see non-fatal drownings weekly." 

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Ezera (Courtesy: Team Luke Hope For Minds)

According to the National Library of Medicine, non-fatal drownings are a leading cause of brain injuries in children.

Tim Siegel’s son, Luke, also experienced a brain injury from a golf cart accident in 2015. In 2021, Luke passed away from COVID complications.

"It is far more overwhelming than I ever could have imagined, the number of children that have brain injuries," said Siegel. "I didn't know the first thing about a brain injury until my son had his."

Luke’s life inspired the founding of Siegel’s nonprofit, Team Luke Hope For Minds, a nonprofit that helps families going through the same experience by offering education and financial and emotional support.

It's an organization Moss and Saucedo credit for helping them walk this new journey. 

"There's a lot of, like, we should have done something differently," said Saucedo. "Like we should maybe not have filled up the tub, or we should have put up a gate. But things happened so fast. And it was only minutes."

That’s why they said something as simple as wearing a life jacket this summer can make a life-changing difference. It’s something they try and remind their other two kids. 

"I would rather you wear a life jacket than have to be in a wheelchair for the rest of your life," said Moss. "It’s just the reality of it."

Moss also emphasized the importance of knowing first aid and CPR.

"You don't think that you'll ever use it," she said. "It might be on somebody you love, and at least you will know what to do."

Team Luke Hope For Minds is holding a Pediatric Brain Injury Conference and Resource Fair in Austin on October 25 and 26.

To learn more about Team Luke Hope For Minds or donate, click here.