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On an easy summer evening in June 2007, Scott and Katey Taylor decided to take three of their four young daughters for dinner and an evening swim at their suburban Minneapolis golf course. An active family, the Taylors loved the water and took every opportunity to spend time together outside.
As the daylight faded, Scott took one of their daughters, Christina, 2, home while Katey ushered Grace, 8, and some pals to the shower. That's when she looked back and saw 6-year-old Abbey in the wading pool sitting down with a strange look on her face. Katey called to her to join them.
She knew something was wrong the minute her daughter stood up. Obviously dizzy, Abbey took a few sideways steps and fell, knocking out her front tooth and hitting her head on the pool deck before plunging into the adult pool. Several hours and one emergency surgery later, doctors told the Taylors news that no parent could ever prepare for, much less imagine. Despite the fact that there had been not a speck of blood at the site of the accident, Abbey's small intestine had been ripped from her body by the suction from an uncovered pool drain in the kiddie pool.
In those panic-stricken days of her first hospital stay, Abbey asked Katey if she was going to be on television. Abbey was a showgirl--the kind of child who could belt out all the lyrics to High School Musical--so her parents figured she was dreaming about being famous. But Abbey wasn't focused on her beloved Hannah Montana. Lying in her hospital bed, the 6-year-old showed she was wise beyond her years. "I need to make sure that what happened to me doesn't happen to someone else," she said. Her words would change the course of the Taylors' lives.
Abbey died nine months later, after 16 surgeries including a triple organ transplant to replace her liver, small intestine, and pancreas. But her parents never forgot that conversation with their cherished little girl. With the support of Minnesota's U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Taylors helped revive and pass the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act, a federal law named for a 7-year-old girl--Graeme, to her family--who drowned after being pinned underwater by hundreds of pounds of suction force from a hot-tub drain. The bill, passed in 2008, bans the manufacture, sale, or distribution of drain covers that don't meet anti-entrapment safety standards and requires the use of less powerful drainage systems. It had originally been championed by Nancy Baker, Graeme's mother, who had lobbied for three years to get the bill passed. When it stalled, Katey and Scott's support gave the legislation the final push it needed to be signed into law.
The Taylors also successfully lobbied for the state-level Abigail Taylor Pool Safety Act. It requires all existing pools and spas that are open to the public to bring their drain covers up to standards. Those pools are also now required to be licensed and inspected by the Minnesota Department of Health.
Getting those laws passed wasn't easy. The Taylors spent countless hours meeting with politicians, and learning the legislative process. They graciously told their heartbreaking story to the media and anyone else who would listen.
The Taylors aren't as unique as you might imagine. Across the United States, parents, many of whom are coping with unfathomable losses, become citizen lobbyists in the hope that other families won't have to suffer the same senseless tragedies. Whether they're fighting for food safety, improved car standards, bullying prevention, or autism-insurance reform, these mothers and fathers claw their way through the tangle of politics and bureaucracy, all in the name of their children.