It was moving day for the Holiday family from West Seattle. The family of four were moving just a few houses down the street, and both homes were a hive of activity.
Mum Natalie went upstairs for a moment, and when she came back down she immediately sensed something was wrong. Her daughter Catalina, 2, was missing.
The family fanned out, calling for the toddler, but there was an extra urgency in their search: Catalina was developmentally delayed, with challenged motor skills. Unable to speak properly, she primarily uses gestures to communicate.
Then Catalina’s brother Ethan, 12, found his sister in a neighborhood retention pond.
“He saw her pink shirt and she was floating face down in the water,” Natalie said.
Ethan jumped in and pulled his sister from the water, screaming for help. A neighbour ran to give CPR.
“Just to see her laying there not moving was … there are no words to see your child like that. Not at all, not at all,” said Natalie.
“It had happened in an instant.”
After a few moments of CPR, the neighbour was able to find a weak pulse. Catalina was alive. But it wasn’t until paramedics took over and Catalina started crying that Natalie believed her daughter would survive.
Catalina was taken to hospital and sedated – and came out of the sedation a day earlier than expected, her mum says.
“Her big brown doe eyes are just sparkling, she’s back, she’s back,” Natalie remembers thinking.
Then something amazing happened: she started talking.
“The first thing she said when she came out of sedation was ‘Mummy’, for the very first time,” Natalie said.
Doctors aren’t sure what triggered the shift in language, but Natalie says Catalina hasn’t stopped using her new skills.
“She is speaking clear language, words. Something clicked – her face is the same, but as her mother she is a different child,” she said.
“It’s just an amazing feeling to have your daughter say ‘Mummy’.”
Catalina is now home and doing well, the family says.