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Boy who nearly drowned battles brain injury |

Boy who nearly drowned battles brain injury

Sara and Michael Ridilla of the Bradenville section of Derry Township sit with their son, Orion, 5, and 2-month-old daughter, Gwendolyn, at Children's Hospital on Thursday, July 26, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Maximus Ridilla (right) with his brother Orion. Submitted

One minute, 3-year-old Maximus Ridilla was riding his bike at a family graduation party. The next, he was out of sight.

“I found him floating in the pool,” his mother, Sara Ridilla, 31, said of the incident July 22 in New Alexandria. “He must have slipped away for one second and went down to the pool by himself.”

His family pulled Maximus out of the water, called emergency responders and began CPR. A medical helicopter flew him to Children’s Hospital where he remains on a ventilator in intensive care.

“He didn’t have a heartbeat the whole time (on the flight), and right when he got there, they got a heartbeat,” Ridilla of Bradenville, Derry Township, said about her son.

The boy’s body is slowly improving from the cardiac arrest. He underwent a hypothermia treatment to keep his body temperature low, a process aimed at minimizing brain injury from lack of oxygen, his mother said.

“It’s supposed to help preserve the brain function,” Ridilla said. “And the idea is when you slowly bring the temperature back to the body from the hypothermia state very, very slowly, when the blood goes back to the brain it’ll lessen the injury.”

It could take weeks or months to gauge the boy’s neurological function, she said.

They’re not sure how long Maximus was in the pool.

“My husband thinks there’s a five-minute window, maybe 10 minutes,” she said.

Ridilla is asking for prayers for her son.

“A lot of faith in God right now that He’s going to bring him back,” Ridilla said.

Maximus is one of three children — he has a 5-year-old brother, Orion, and a 2-month-old sister, Gwendolyn.

Michael Ridilla, 26, has been staying by his son’s side overnight on a couch at the hospital, while Sara makes the 39-mile drive back and forth.

“I have to take my children home and take care of them and bathe them,” she said. “So I can’t really live in a waiting room.”

Sara Ridilla left her job as a nurse at Excela Health Latrobe Hospital shortly before Gwendolyn’s birth, and her husband is laid off from his construction work.

“We don’t have insurance yet from them (the construction union), but we qualified for CHIP (Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program). … So we’re lucky to have that,” she said.

Ridilla’s friend and former co-worker at Excela set up an online fundraiser for the family.

Samantha Henschel, 28, of Pleasant Unity, said she organized the fundraiser on to cover medical bills, travel, expenses or whatever the family needs.

“(Sara Ridilla’s) family means everything to her,” said Henschel, a surgical technician in the operating room at Excela. “They are such nice people.”

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or

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