I thought my wife was dead. She almost was.

I thought my wife Nicole was dead. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. It was late on a Saturday night and she was taking a bath before going to bed. I walked into the bathroom and found her motionless with her head tilted forward, with both her mouth and nose under water. I ran over to her, lifted her head, and shouted her name very loudly several times and she did not respond. My mind started flying through the scenario. I knew she could not have been in the tub for more than 5 minutes and that I needed to start CPR as soon as possible. I would also need to call 911, but not until after I started CPR. I should use the home phone because it would link to our address more easily than my cell phone and the cordless on the kitchen counter would be the closest. I reached in the tub and started to pull her onto the bathroom floor to start CPR. I didn’t realize how limp her shoulders would be and they slipped out of my hands and she slipped back into the tub. I was being too delicate because I didn’t want to hurt her, which doesn’t make any sense in retrospect. I tried again with more resolve and pulled her up onto the side of the tub. I shouted her name again and she still did not respond so I tilted her head backwards to check her pulse. My hands were shaking so much that I couldn’t diagnose anything, so I decided to just pull her on the floor and perform both breathing and chest compressions. Just when I started to move her, she took in a huge gasp of air and looked at me with a partially scared but mostly confused look. She had no idea what had just happened.

She was obviously fine because she was quickly on her feet and completely coherent. She thought I had woken her from a nap, and I guess that may have been the case. However, if it had been just a couple of minutes later, the result would have been completely different. We talked about what had just happened for the next hour or so. By the fear in my eyes, she could tell something major had just happened, but her reaction wasn’t as dramatic as mine and felt it was important to make sure she understood what happened. Needless to say, we both promised to never take a bath when we’re sleepy ever again.

I was glad that I didn’t panic during the situation and that I reacted calmly and quickly. I was a little disappointed that it took me as long as it did to get her out of the tub and that I was overcome with adrenaline and unable to check her pulse. Even though I didn’t actually perform CPR, my training came back to me clearly. I’m confident I could have performed it properly despite having seen it demonstrated incorrectly so many times on television.

This wasn’t a “I didn’t realize what I had until she was almost gone” experience. We’d had a great day, spending pretty much every minute together. However, it has made me reflect on traumatic it would be if I did lose Nicole. It’s made me much more protective and perhaps more appreciative. Because this was such a dramatic event, I felt it was necessary to write it down. So remember, don’t fall asleep in the tub.

Written by in: Life Reflections | Last updated on: 2014-May-27 |


  • Cindy Kuhlman says:

    Carlton – this story gave me chills! I thought of the many times I’m exhausted after caring for 4 kids & soak in the tub when Dave is out of town. I won’t be doing that anymore.
    I checked out your site to see if you had anything on PC gamepads – you are so far over my head – gamepads are way too simple for you to list! ha. Would you believe my oldest son will be 7 in a few weeks? He is showing an interested in computer games & I thought a pad would be more enjoyable than just the plain keyboard for him. I found logitech gamepads rated fairly well.
    I hope you & Nicole are doing well – enjoying Indy life. We completed our family last year with a girl! She is 8 months and the Princess of the house!Her brothers are 2 1/2; 4 1/2 & 7. Never a dull moment!!

    Take care! Great job with your website too!

  • Tim Owens says:

    Hi. Does your wife snore at night? I can’t help but to think that she wasn’t breathing under water. She may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A prominent symptom is drowsiness during normal waking hours. If she habitually stops breathing repeatedly while sleeping, then it might explain how you found her in that position. 5 minutes? If she does have OSA, then she was probably awake and then fell asleep about a minute before you walked in (which would explain the confusion on her part–one minute she’s enjoying the bath, the next you’re in her face). Just a suggestion. If it sounds like a possibility, get her referred for a sleep study. You never know. Take it easy.


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