A boy's bravery; a father's anguish

Michael Hayden Singletary, 7, holds his little brother, Drayton, who Michael rescued after he fell into the family's pool. Parents Michael and Clarice Singletary are in the background.

MONCKS CORNER — Michael Hayden Singletary, 7, winds up and throws a baseball under the critical of eye of his dad.

His little brother, 17-month-old Drayton, runs around the yard smiling.

Mom is inside fixing supper, thankful everybody's healthy.

Things weren't always so bright.

Drayton was floating face down in the family swimming pool. He would have died if Michael hadn't jumped in, pulled him out and called 911 when his dad had given up hope.

It's been a month since the accident, but the family is still sorting through the pain and cataloging the lessons.

Michael's school, St. John's Christian Academy, recognized him as a hero this month. Berkeley County Council praised him in a resolution this week.

It happened Feb. 19 after school. The boys were playing outside. Michael's dad, whose name also is Michael, said he had to run inside and make a quick business phone call. The younger Michael always had been good about keeping an eye on his brother, and it would just be a minute.

Michael got distracted this time. Drayton wandered over by the pool, dropped his favorite pacifier, reached down to get it and fell in.

Michael heard the splash and ran around the house. He jumped into the freezing February water, held up Drayton while he swam under him, then pushed him up the ladder to the side of the pool.

Michael walked in the back door, carrying Drayton in his arms. He was blue and not breathing.

Singletary was sure he was dead. His first thought, he said, was, "I'm a terrible person. I'm putting business and money over my kids. I can't believe I've done this."

His second thought was his wife, Clarice, who was still at work.

"How am I going to tell my wife I let her baby die?" he recalled. "She's going to hate me."

He kept walking around with Drayton in his arms, listening for a sign of life, finding none, praying.

Michael asked if his brother was dead. Singletary said yes, he was.

Michael was not giving up. He ran to the phone, dialed 911 and gave the phone to his dad.

The dispatcher gave him some quick pointers on CPR. Drayton began to respond. He started breathing, coughed up water, opened his eyes. His color was back.

Singletary told the dispatcher to cancel the ambulance. His son was OK.

"Yes, dad, yes!" said Michael, who felt responsible. "Now we don't have to tell mom."

"No, bubba, we don't," said Singletary, who was blaming himself.

They weren't out of the woods yet, though. Drayton started turning blue again and having trouble breathing.

Singletary called his sister. She took a look at Drayton and called EMS again, along with his mother.

At Medical University Hospital, Dr. Scott Russell ordered the staff to put Drayton under warm blankets and hot lights and give him oxygen. Within a couple hours, he was OK.

It's not unusual for a child to recover after a near drowning and then go downhill again, Russell said. That's why it's a good idea to take the child to the hospital immediately.

It's also a good idea to learn CPR, Singletary said. He did after the accident.

"I think it should be mandatory for every parent," he said.

He also drained the swimming pool. He said he won't even consider filling it again until Drayton is old enough to swim.

Singletary also has softened his tendency to criticize other parents whose children get hurt.

"I always passed judgment on people; what were they thinking?" he said. "(Now I realize) it could happen to anybody. I never thought it would happen to me, and it happened."

Clarice Singletary, the boys' mother, said they all learned from the incident.

"He still feels like it was his fault," she said of her husband, adding that she doesn't blame him. "People say, 'I would have called 911 right away.' But they never know what they would do until they're in that situation."