Family Gets Chance to Thank Firefighters Who Helped Save Girl After Near-Drowning

CITRUS HEIGHTS -- A 2-year-old Orangevale girl was lucky to be celebrating her second birthday Monday with the firefighters who helped save her life.

Avery Cunha rehearsed her thank yous for an unusual birthday reunion with the firefighters who responded to her near drowning.

"Back in February we didn’t think she would see her second birthday, so it’s really big that she got to," said Avery's mother, Amber, through tears.

It was very much thanks to Amber’s CPR efforts at the direction of a Sacramento Metropolitan Fire dispatcher.

"Scary because I didn’t know if I was doing it right, but I kept getting water out so I figured, 'I’m trying,'" Amber Cunha said.

Amber Cunha credits the engine crew and paramedics for saving Avery’s life after she was not breathing and had no pulse.

She knows that firefighters often don’t know the outcomes of their rescues because of medical confidentiality laws.

"This is what it’s all about is helping people and to be able to see firsthand the benefit of what we were able to do for her is amazing," said Metro Fire Capt. Mike McDaniel.

"We train for this, so being able to see her today is a really unique experience," said Metro Fire firefighter Justin Frey.

Like many 2-year-olds, Avery is constantly on the move but she was on life support for the first two weeks after her accident. Doctors said with so much time without oxygen to the brain, she might be impaired for life, if she survived at all.

After therapy, she’s just now learning to walk.

"We rarely see little kids like this," said Metro Fire engineer Bret Cater. "So that’s a good thing. So to be able to see her improve is amazing."

Avery doesn’t know the significance of her second birthday, but the people responsible for the improbable milestone do and they’re thankful for it.

"I’m just so glad that she’s doing so well and I can see that they’re happy that they’re getting to see her. It’s a good feeling," her mother said.

The pool at Avery’s house is now surrounded by a fence. Metro Fire encourages the use of pool alarms and keeping the pool free of toys when small children are around.