Terrifying spa pool drama

AMY MAAS
Last updated 05:00 15/12/2013
Cooper Sweeney recovering with his grandparents Greg and Sue Sweeney
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
ORDEAL: Cooper Sweeney recovering with his grandparents Greg and Sue Sweeney, at the spa pool where he got his arm stuck.

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A toddler nearly lost the fingers on his right hand after his arm became trapped in a spa pool filter inlet.

Cooper Sweeney's terrifying 40-minute ordeal started when the two-year-old took a dip in the spa pool with his aunt at his grandparent's house in Mairangi Bay, Auckland, last Monday.

His father, Brendon Sweeney, who was at work when the accident happened, said Cooper was talking to his aunt and had his hands behind his back when his arm became trapped.

It swelled up straight away and his head went under the water.

"My sister grabbed his head and brought him up and couldn't figure out why he was crying. Then she realised he was stuck and started screaming."

Cooper's arm was then drawn further into the hole before his grandfather managed to turn off the pump, but this still did not relieve the suction.

"He was stuck in there for about 20 minutes and then my mum called me, the spa company to see if they could reverse the pump, the fire brigade and the ambulance," Sweeney said.

He arrived at his father's house as three firefighters started to chip away at glass tiles. Cooper had been stuck for about 40 minutes at that point.

"His hand really ballooned up and they managed to cut away some of the concrete and put a small hole into the hose, which is about an inch-and-a-half wide [38mm] pipe.

"That was just enough for me to massage his forearm and draw the soap down and get lubricant on to his arm.

"Cooper was kind of exhausted of crying by the time I got there. I told him to bite my arm so I could tell how much pain he was in when I was trying to pull his arm out."

When Cooper's arm finally came unstuck, his hand was black.

"It was all a bit of an ordeal. Once his arm was relieved he was in a bit of pain then because the swelling was pretty serious.

"He was telling me he couldn't feel or move his fingers."

Sweeney accompanied him in an ambulance to Starship children's hospital before he was transferred to Middlemore Hospital to see a plastic surgeon.

Cooper was kept at Middlemore overnight so that doctors could keep his arm elevated to restore circulation to the hand.

"He's still quite severely swollen and he's just started using his hand again," Sweeney said.

He wanted to warn other parents of the potential danger posed by spa pool filters called skimmers.

"Some of my friends have similar spa pools and are going to add extra screws to the grate so their children can't get stuck," he said.

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But the experience hasn't scared the toddler away from the water.

"We went to swimming class yesterday and he jumped in the pool, and I guess he's still the same happy chappy."

Sweeney and Cooper will also visit the three volunteer firefighters who came to his rescue.

"We'll take some beers to say thank you to them."

- Sunday Star Times

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