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

Family hopes to get her same hyperbaric oxygen therapy that restored another near drowning victim back to health

The family of Ayala Waya, the 16-month-old girl who nearly drowned in a retention pond a month ago, says their loved one suffered from a submersion injury and needs an experimental treatment to recover.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The family of Ayla Pinkett, the 16-month-old girl who nearly drowned in a retention pond a month ago, says their loved one suffered from a submersion injury and needs an experimental treatment to recover.

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

Ayala’s great aunt, Kisha Whitehurst, said when she thinks of the Ayala, she thinks of energy. “She’s very bright, very happy,” Whitehurst said. “Very much full of personality.”

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

But now, she’s in a comatose state.

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.”

Ayla Pinkett, 16-months-old (Wayla family)

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,” Whitehurst said. “She’s not even two 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. The hyperbaric oxygen treatment is not covered by insurance, according to Ayla’s parents. The family is hoping for community support so Ayla can, maybe, become another success story.

The family has set up a gofundme page, so you can help. The treatment cost $12,000.

Ayala Wayla, 16-months-old, nearly drown in a retention pond (Wayla family)

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