Yosina M. Lissebeck: Mother and Child Safety Advocate
by Yosina M. Lissebeck
When I was in junior high a school counselor asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told them I did not want to be anything; I was going to be an attorney. That drive and motivation had me passing the California State Bar and beginning my career as an attorney at age 25. All my life I had worked to achieve this goal, and I was not going to let anything stop me from becoming the partner, and then judge, I knew I was intended to be. That was until that fateful morning, at age 27, I took that pregnancy test and found out that my husband and I were going to have a baby. Hum… How did this fit into the plan?
On April 9, 2001, my beautiful daughter was born, eyes open and not crying a bit. I knew I was going to be in for a new type of journey. I had all my life wanted, and then become an attorney. Now writing on the hospital papers, Mother, seemed so strange, yet exciting at the same time. Of course I wasn’t going to let motherhood slow me down form those goals of becoming a partner and then a judge. Well my daughter had different plans for me. Working the hours required of an associate at the firm, all the while trying to get to and from day care on time was a struggle. Then there were the days she was sick and I had to stay at home. The guilt started to set in. How was I to manage this? I felt I was failing at being a mother and an attorney, and those dreams about becoming a partner and judge seemed to be getting further and further away. Determined, I kept up the rigorous pace.
Then my life took a turn. In May of 2002, when my daughter was 14 months old, I received the call no parent wants to get. I was at court and was told that I had to go to Children’s ICU immediately. There had been an accident with my daughter at Day Care. They wouldn’t tell me what happened over the phone. Frantically, I drove to the hospital. I do not remember much of the drive, but I do remember getting there, leaving the keys to my new car on top so someone could move it if they needed to, and running in to the Emergency Room. An ICU nurse was waiting for me when I arrived. She took me into a small conference room to prepare me for what had happened and what I was going to see.
Apparently, the day care provider had put out a plastic kiddie pool (it was a nice May day) and as she turned her back to take pictures of some of the bigger kids on the swing set, my daughter crawled over to the pool, stood herself up, and dunked her head in. She took a breath, which filled her lungs instantly with water, and she went unconscious. The day care provider found her “A” frame against the side of the kiddie pool, head submerged, not breathing and blue. She grabbed her, started CPR and called 911. The paramedics responded very quickly and the Children’s Hospital ER had a team waiting for her when she arrived.
Walking into the ICU, seeing my baby in nothing but a diaper, strapped down, sedated, with all kinds of breathing tubes and IVs coming from her little body is an image I will never forget. The Doctor told me that although she was probably in the water for about 2 minutes and was exhibiting signs of oxygen deprivation when she came into the ER, the MRI came out clean, and that she may not have suffered any brain damage. He told us that we were very very lucky, and even another few seconds under the water could have resulted in severe brain damage, and another minute could have resulted in death.
I sat at her bed side in shock and disbelief as my husband, my parents, and other family members began to arrive. How could this have happened? I had done what I was supposed to do to find a good day care provider, I had made sure she was licensed, I had checked her file, I had called references, I had interviewed her when I was pregnant. Although this terrible accident happened while under her care, she did save my daughters life by starting CPR immediately and calling 911. Now the guilt truly set in.
As a way to deal with some of the guilt, I figured that this had to have happened to me for a reason. I am an attorney, so I began to look at the laws. Although, the state revoked the day care provider’s license, due to lack of supervision, the child care laws allow for kiddie pools to be present in day cares. I started to work on legislation that would ban them, much like the ban on baby walkers.
However, I was coming up against such opposition. People attacked me for trying to regulate “kids having fun.” Didn’t people understand my daughter almost died because of an $8.00 pool. I argued that kids can have fun in the water, safely, by using sprinklers or squirt bottles. For a year I fought this battle, only to be defeated. Devastated I took a break. But, my life had changed. I had another baby, this time a boy and spending quality time with my children was important. Although my practice was flourishing, and the time I was spending with my children was priceless, my children were both in school, and I felt that I was meant to do something more.
I re-evaluated the events in my life, and decided that I had felt the most passion when I was working on the legislation to try to ban the kiddie pools. Although I felt so defeated when it gained little support I knew that it was important to do something again. I researched groups on line and discovered that the Children’s Hospital that helped to save my daughters life had a San Diego coalition of Safe Kids USA (www.usa.safekids.org) a group that works to prevent the accidental injury and death of children ages 1-14. They particularly had a strong presence trying to educate and prevent children from drowning.
In fact, they were working on getting Federal legislation passed that would make fencing around pools, anti-entrapment filters in pools/spas, and drowning education a requirement in all 50 states. I was shocked to learn that only 10 states require fencing, and only 5 states require anti-entrapment filters. The realization of not having these basic safety requirements in all 50 states is horrifying. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children under 4 years old and the second leading cause of unintentional death in children 4-14, and every year approximately 4000 children are brought to the emergency room after near drowning incidents. Why is this topic not more widely discussed?
I contacted the group and they welcomed me with open arms. I realized that not only did I have my daughters story to tell but that I had my own. My hair had gotten stuck in a drain filter in a spa when I was 13 years old. Foolishly, I was trying to “breath” from the bubbles coming from the bottom of the spa. I was strong enough to pull my hair out of the drain; unfortunately there are far to many who can’t and drown, or are severely injured. As I began to discuss the topic, I found out that most people had a story, either personally, or through someone they knew. With drowning being very preventable, no one should have a story. I began to get more involved and soon was asked to do news segments for the local news highlighting water safety tips such as never take your eyes off your children when they are in the water, stay away from pool/spa drains and filters, and know CPR. They asked me for my title. My title had always been attorney. For so long I wanted my title to be partner or judge; but without hesitation, and with a sense of accomplishment, I quickly responded Mother and Child Safety Advocate.