Donations, treatment center will cover experimental therapy for 16-month-old who nearly drowned in retention pond

Family hopes hyperbaric oxygen therapy that restored another near drowning victim will heal Ayla Pinkett

Ayala Wayla, 16-months-old (Wayla family)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 16-month-old girl who nearly drowned in a retention pond a month ago and was left in a comatose state needs an experimental treatment to recover, her family says.

An expensive one.

Ayla Pinkett’s family is banking on hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which restored a 2-year-old from Arkansas to health after similar circumstances.

RELATED: 16-month-old who nearly drowned in retention pond needs experimental treatment

But the $12,000 treatment is not covered by insurance, Ayla’s parents said.

They set up a GoFundMe page, which had raised nearly $5,000 as of Tuesday.

On top of the community’s generosity, North Florida Hyperbarics said it has chosen Ayla to be the recipient of the one charity case it takes per year.

Between that and the donations raised so far, the practice said Ayla’s treatment should be covered.

Ayala Pinkett, 16-months-old, nearly drown in a retention pond in June (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

On June 9, a JSO officer pulled the 16-month-old out of the retention pond at the Madelyn Oaks Apartments. A resident, who didn’t want to be identified, said they witnessed the officer running to the pond and jumping in to try to save the child. She said a maintenance worker also helped.

“They were able to do like teamwork. She was able to give the baby to the maintenance guy, and now she’s trying to help herself get out of there because she got on her safety gear, her duty belt, stuff like that,” the neighbor said. “She did an amazing job like doing what she could do.”

16-month-old who nearly drowned in retention pond needs experimental treatment

The family said Ayla’s near-drowning resulted in Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy, which is a term for brain dysfunction caused by a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain.

According to Ayla’s family, doctors didn’t have much hope that Ayla would function normally again and told the family that she may not make it. But Ayala’s parents are encouraged by a 2-year-old from Arkansas who nearly drowned in her family’s swimming pool.

In February 2016, Eden Carlson was underwater for at least 10 minutes and wasn’t expected to survive.

DONATE: Help Ayala get Hyperbaric Oxygen treatment

Eden had severe brain damage. She couldn’t speak or walk, and her parents were told she’d never be able to again. But after hyperbaric oxygen therapy over several months, her brain damage was reversed.

Eden is now able to walk, talk and is back to being a normal little girl. Ayla’s family are hoping the same treatment will bring her back too. Hyperbaric oxygen treatment involves putting a patient in a special hyperbaric chamber where they breathe 100% pure oxygen. The treatment is cleared by the FDA for several injuries, like air bubbles in blood vessels and wounds.

“Because this little girl has got so much promise and so much life ahead of her,” Ayala’s great aunt, Kisha Whitehurst, said. “She’s not even 2, you know, and she’s there. She wants to be awake.”

Right now, Ayla is stable but is breathing with the help of a trach and is being fed through a tube.

Whitehurst said when she thinks of Ayala, she thinks of energy.

“She’s very bright, very happy,” Whitehurst said. “Very much full of personality.”

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