Families Praying for Miracle for Toddler Who Nearly Drowned

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A 3-year-old boy remains at Rady Children's Hospital Friday night fighting for his life after a Fourth of July weekend accident at a friend's swimming pool in Poway.

Malachi Bernal somehow went underwater. Witnesses say he could have been there for 2 to 5 minutes. 

Sheila Veenstra and her husband Dan, the couple who hosted the gathering, say it’s a miracle Malachi even survived. Now they’re praying for another one.

“We need him walking and talking and playing, so we definitely need a miracle,” Sheila Veenstra said. “So Miracle for Malachi is a prayer and a hope."

Dan Veenstra described Malachi as a 3-year-old who can’t be slowed down.

“He is full of life, full or energy, he talks a mile a minute. It is hard to understand,” he joked.

A GoFundMe page has been created to raise money following the tragic accident.

Malachi's parents and the Veenstras met through church ministries two years ago. The families were holding a retreat at the Veenstras home over the holiday weekend.

Somehow just before dinner Friday evening, Malachi slipped out of the house and into the pool unnoticed.

“Any one of us could have had an ‘if only,’ and the accident wouldn't have happened. There was like nine of us in the house, nine of us, if only it wouldn't have happened."

Dan Veenstra pulled the boy from near the deep end and his wife immediately began CPR for 30 minutes while Malachi's father prayed at the pool's edge.

“He was just calling out to God, ‘Don’t take my baby boy, just don't take my baby boy, God. Don't make me bury my son,’” Sheila Veenstra said.

When the paramedics arrived Malachi had a heart beat. Now in the hospital, Malachi is showing some improvement but the brain damage is so severe he may never walk, talk, or respond to more treatment.

Both families refuse to give up.

“I have the utmost confidence that this accident is used for our good and God's glory,” Sheila Veenstra said.

“We did what we could, but to bring him back to full health is going to take a miracle,” Dan Veenstra added.

You can follow Malachi's progress by joining the Miracle for Malachi group on Facebook.

The city of Poway posted pool safety reminders on social media three days after the accident. It included a link to the American Academy of Pediatrics which warns, because of the coronavirus pandemic, more people may be tempted to buy pools and advises people to create barriers to keep young kids out of them.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story stated the boy may have been underwater for 20 minutes. He was speculated to have been underwater for 2 to 5 minutes.

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