Some people might wonder how Joshua Waldron, 3, could survive three to eight minutes submerged in the cold water of Lake Powell.
But David and Holly Waldron, the boy's parents, who were panic-stricken when their blond, blue-eyed youngster fell into the water from a houseboat Saturday, have their own explanation."It's a gift from God that Joshua's alive. It's an answer to many prayers," Mrs. Waldron said shortly after her son was released Tuesday from Primary Children's Medical Center.
Within two hours after leaving the hospital the boy was throwing a ball in the yard of their Salt Lake home and playing with Charles Kornman, the family's church minister who dresses up as "Popcorn" the clown to cheer up youngsters.
Joshua awoke with a headache early Wednesday, but Mrs. Waldron said a physician told them it was probably just stress-related. The doctor expects no residual effects.
"He's perfect, just perfect. No one can believe it," said Mr. Waldron, who along with two close friends, Tom Ryan and Ken Allred, dove into the water after realizing the youngster had disappeared.
The accident occurred while the Waldrons, who also have a daughter, Aleah, 9, were on a Memorial Day weekend outing with four other couples at Lake Powell.
Their rented 44-foot-long houseboat was docked at a large rock in Annie's Canyon on the lake, about 10 miles from Hall's Crossing. Although the couple didn't see their son fall, they believe Joshua was stepping from an algae-covered rock onto the houseboat.
"That's the last place we saw him just minutes before," Mrs. Waldron recalled.
The first frantic search of the water failed to find the boy. The men returned to the surface of the water, where they donned scuba diving masks and tried again. This time Ryan found Joshua about 3 feet underneath the water, but about 20 feet back along the houseboat, whose motor was not running.
"Joshua was not breathing. Almost everyone on the boat knew how to give CPR, which was begun immediately (by Mr. Waldron). And Joshua started breathing again within about a minute," Mrs. Waldron said.
Minutes later the families flagged down a speedboat, "which seemed to come out of nowhere" through the canyon. The boat operator took the family 10 miles to Hall's Crossing, where an emergency medical technician was located. From there the boy was transported in a National Park Service boat for another several miles to a clinic at Bullfrog Marina, where a doctor had been alerted.
After two hours there, Joshua, his mother and Bob Barkus, a physician's assistant, made a 1-hour, 20-minute flight in a fixed-wing Life Guard Air plane, piloted by Doug Brown, to Salt Lake City and Primary Children's Medical Center. The plane was dispatched from Blanding.
The Waldrons are full of praise for Barkus and others involved in the boy's care.
"He was wonderful. He did a good job," Mr. Waldron said of Barkus.
"No one can believe it. We're talking major miracle stuff," said the father, who during a Deseret News visit Thursday lovingly touched and talked softly to his son.
"I love you, Josh. I love you, pal," he kept saying.
Mrs. Waldron, a clinical psychologist at a mental health facility, said Joshua didn't regain consciousness until he arrived at the hospital. She said she and her husband were advised by a physician at the clinic that their son might have long-term medical problems because he was deprived of oxygen for several minutes.
"People don't realize what drowning is all about. We sure didn't," Mr. Waldron said.
During efforts to retrieve and revive Joshua, Aleah, a fourth-grader at Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School, kept assuring the family that her brother, a 34-pounder who requested spaghetti the morning after the accident, was "strong and would be all right."
The near-drowning was "the most horrible moment of my life. It was a time of saying, `Please, God, help us find him.' When they brought him up out of the water I knew we would be able to revive him," Mrs. Waldron said.
John Benjamin, a National Park Service district ranger at the Wahweap Marina, said the lake temperature was probably in the low 60s at the time of the accident.
"That probably cooled the child's body very quickly, slowing down metabolism and making it possible for him to survive longer without oxygen."
Joshua wasn't able to tell his parents about the fall, but when he awoke from sleeping at the hospital he "told us he was in deep water and tried to swim. Then spontaneously, without our prompting him, he looked up and said, `I thought I was going to die.' "