Toddler survives near-drowning and a coma, now fighting for full recovery

Posted at 4:39 PM, Sep 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-05 01:37:50-04

A Valley toddler who survived a near-drowning is now back in the water taking swim lessons, showing great progress after beating the odds.

Her parents say Joy Loboda went without a heartbeat for about 30 minutes, and was placed in a medically induced coma after being found face down in a pool last December

“I saw she was cold and frigid and stiff, I saw her pupils shrinking,” said Matt Loboda, Joy’s father. “As a father I can tell you… I believe at that moment she left us. She was gone.”

Loboda says the fact that the pool water was very cold, and quick thinking CPR helped to bring her back.

The family was visiting Arizona to celebrate Christmas when Joy, who was 19 months old at the time, got out of sight.

"How could we let that happen? It was so quick, it was such a flash and we lost track of her," said her mother, Kristin Loboda. "I thought this will never happen to me, my child is never out of my sight, it's never going to happen to me. But it can happen, and it can happen in a split second," she added.

Matt Loboda said he sprinted to the pool and somehow leapt over the five and a half foot fence to get to his daughter. With the help of a relative, they performed CPR on her.

"I was just very focused and was praying throughout the whole time," said Loboda. A detective who got there right away encouraged the two men to keep going, telling them they were doing a good job. Loboda said then they finally had to take his baby away from his arms, and rush her into an ambulance.

"The detective said, I have to take her now. He ran with her and was doing chest compressions on her the whole time. The paramedics saw her. The look of horror on their face, and you know it felt like there wasn't any hope," said Loboda.

Kristen Loboda said they truly thought they had lost their baby girl on the way to the hospital.  Only when the doctor uttered the words, "but she has a heartbeat" did she finally feel a sense of hope. 

While baby Joy remained in a medically induced coma, Kristin said there was constant prayer surrounding her. The family prayed in shifts around her hospital bed. A priest held daily Mass in her hospital room. Tens of thousands of people read Joy's story on Facebook, and many of them reached out to the family saying they too were praying for her.

The prayers and messages of encouragement came in from all around the United States, Canada, Europe, India, and even China.

"I have a friend there who is a Priest. He was celebrating Mass in an underground Church everyday for her," said Matt Loboda.

Through the prayers and the support, Kristin Loboda said she was able to find healing within herself over the guilt of losing sight of her child for a second.

Matt and Kristin truly believed the power of prayer is what led to the "miracle of Joy". Not just her recovery, but a full recovery with no major lasting side effects or brain damage.

"It is a miracle. It's a miracle," said Kristin Loboda.

Joy is undergoing speech therapy but is way ahead of schedule even in that, said her parents.

One of the biggest steps toward healing for the family has been to re-engage Joy in the swimming pool. A family friend who owns the Hubbard Family Swim School encouraged the family to get Joy back in the water.

Kristin Loboda said it was very tough for her as it brought back a lot of trauma, but one step at a time, the water that almost killed their child is now helping heal all of them. Her biggest take away from the experience that she wants to share with all parents is to not let a pool fence give you that false sense of security, and make sure the gates of your pool fence are self latching, and close properly.

Joy and her siblings are all now enrolled at the Hubbard Family Swim School, taking lessons and enjoying their time in the water.

Matt Young with the Hubbard Family Swim School said the facility offered free lessons for babies from 8 weeks old up to 6 months old.