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Abby's Wish as Law

Mountain Lake Observer

March 5, 2009

The custodial staff at Mt. Lake Public School has spent the past several weeks at the bottom of the 8'6” deep end of the swimming pool.

They haven't been diving for pennies; they have been responding to new regulations concerning the installation of anti-entrapment drain covers and other systems to ensure that children and others cannot become trapped by the pool’s drains — as well as completing other maintenance.

The “Abigail Taylor Pool Safety Act” was passed unanimously by the Minnesota Legislature last year and signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty on May 16, 2008.

The bill requires daily physical inspections of drain covers and grates in all but residential pools. And beginning with the most shallow pools, it called for mandatory drainage systems designed to prevent suction from blockage. Operators of pools that lack redundant suction outlets will have to put them in.

The law was named for the six-year-old girl from Edina who was severely injured when she sat on an open drain in a wading pool. Her serious injuries eventually led to her death.

The state law “piggybacks” on a separate federal law — the “Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act.” This law sets stricter guidelines on the production and sale of pool drain covers, and went into effect December 19, 2008.

This federal law applies to all swimming pools across the country.

“Abbey” made a wish before she died last March as a result of complications from her injuries, telling her parents that she didn't want what happened to her to ever happen to another child. So in her honor, they helped to push through the legislation in Minnesota that mandates the proper installation and maintenance of pool drains.

Abbey’s story

Six-year-old Abigail Taylor died in March 2008, nine months after being injured by an unprotected swimming pool drain in the wading pool at the Minneapolis Golf Club.

It has been a difficult journey for the Taylor family, but Abbey's parents, Scott and Katey, say one of the many things they have learned along the way, is that there is hope.

Ironically, earlier on that fateful summer evening of June 29, 2007 — the day Abbey was injured — Katey had handed a lifeguard at the facility a rusty screw that had come loose from the wading pool's drain.

"I literally handed the screw to the lifeguard and said . . . this is dangerous, kids are cutting their feet on it," Katey said.

But the real danger lay underneath the wading pool’s 18 inches of water. That screw was supposed to be holding down the kiddie pool's drain cover.

An investigation later revealed that the cover had been poorly maintained for many years. On that Friday night, it came off — and Abbey fell on top of an unprotected drain. Its powerful suction tore her small intestine from her body.

When the family arrived at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis after the incident, doctors rushed Abbey into surgery, believing she had a rectal tear. Surgery, they said, would take about an hour.

Several hours later, the Taylors finally saw the surgeon.

Abbey was still alive, but the news was not good. The doctor took the Taylors into a room and explained what had happened, telling them that Abbey had been disemboweled and had lost her small intestine. He also told them that there was no medical reason why she had survived.

Abbey did survive after the accident and her recovery amazed her doctors at Children's Hospital. The only thing that upset her was the feeding tube that delivered all her nutrition. It would keep her alive — but also would eventually take a toll on her liver.

Doctors told the Taylors that Abbey would need a transplant — and that her outlook was not good.

A few weeks after that conversation, Abbey got to go home. There she could do the things she loved: singing, dancing and just being with her family.

Abbey made it to her first day of school that fall 2007 with a backpack full of nutritional solution and the pump needed to feed her — plus a Hannah Montana purse which covered the drainage tube that came out her side.

But soon after her return to school, it became clear that Abbey would need to travel to Nebraska for a triple transplant of her liver, pancreas and small intestine.

Even as she awaited her surgery, Abbey did not lose her irrepressible spirit. Home video shows her dancing with her IV (intravenous) pole, just hours before her transplant surgery on December 17, 2007.

For a couple of months, Abbey appeared to be doing well. But that changed in late February 2008. At that time, Abbey had to begin chemotherapy after her doctors concluded that she had developed a cancerous condition that, on rare occasions, is triggered by organ transplants. The condition, called PTLD (post-transplant lymphoprolipherative disease), affects certain blood cells.

In early March 2008, her new organs began to fail due to an infection, and her body was partially rejecting her liver. She additionally needed kidney dialysis to remove excess fluid in her body.

By that time, Abbey had had 16 surgeries and innumerable infections.

On March 20, 2008, with her parents by her side, the little light that was Abigail Rose Taylor went out.

Aside from spurring on the new state and federal laws, the Taylors also started a charitable organization called "Abbey's Hope," because that is what Abbey's journey taught them, helped in large part by the outpouring of support they received from so many people.

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