COVINA — In the minute and a half that Renee Tuba went indoors to pick up the phone Wednesday, her 6-month-old daughter, Britney, rolled her walker toward the back-yard pond and toppled in.
For a moment, sheer panic reigned as she dashed toward the gasping baby, said Tuba, 25, a supermarket checker.
"I could see her walker upside down in the pond," she recalled. "She had wriggled out of the walker and was floating face up. She was full of water and couldn't take a breath."
Tuba grabbed her daughter by an arm and dragged her out of the foot-deep water, then started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as she summoned an ambulance to her Edna Place home.
"Her stomach was all hard," Tuba said. "She was trying to take shallow breaths but couldn't fill up her lungs." After a long 30 seconds, the baby gulped her first breath of air and began wailing, her mother said.
"Just to hear her cry was such a relief," said Tuba, who held an oxygen mask over her daughter's face as the ambulance rushed them to the emergency room at Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina.
Two hours later, an ambulance from Childrens Hospital of Orange County took her to Orange, Tuba said. That hospital deals often with near-drownings, said spokeswoman Maureen Williams, adding that the numbers increase markedly "every time there's a heat wave."
When she arrived, "the child was in good condition," said Dr. Nick Anas, director of the pediatric intensive care unit. Tuba stayed overnight at the hospital, where Britney remained for 24 hours "as a precaution" with her favorite squeaker toy, a purple polka-dot horse.
The pair returned home Thursday.
As for the pond, "we plan on taking it out," Tuba said, noting that she had been concerned about it from the time they moved into the single-story home two years ago.
During that time, "we've never been in the back yard 20 times," said Tuba, who also has a 3-year-old son. "It's just not child-safe."
She said she was relieved that she remembered the CPR she studied in a medical office management course four years ago. As luck would have it, she had just reviewed a CPR brochure earlier this month.