Near-drowning victim beats the odds

Brandon Nemec, now 14, with his mom, Heather Sims.


BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) – Ten years ago, on March 8, 2004, Brandon Nemec, who was 4 at the time, slid down a hill and into a pond. He was trapped under the ice for a terrifying 21 minutes, before two Barker volunteer firefighters rescued him.

Since then, life has not been easy for Brandon. But he has survived, and his mother wants to tell people his story, and show them that it is possible for good things to come out of even the worst experiences.

Heather Sims believes there is no stronger and tougher fighter on earth than her son, Brandon Nemec, who is now 14.

“The doctors never thought he would make it this far. I had one doctor go as far as saying, if I didn’t put him on a ventilator, he wouldn’t make it past his 12th birthday,” Sims recalls.

Brandon lives with permanent brain damage, as a result of the lack of oxygen he suffered during that time under the ice. He breathes on his own and communicates with his mother through facial cues – smiling, rolling his eyes, and the like. For seven years, Sims took care of him in her Lockport home, until a nine-month-long MRSA infection forced her to move him into a nursing facility.

“The body, I guess, is protective where it needs to be,” says Sims. “So it preserved the parts of [his] brain that it needed to for organ function and respiration. But it took apart, took away the ability to walk, and be continent, and talk…”

Over the last ten years, Brandon has overcome several  bouts of pneumonia, the MRSA infection, and even septic shock. Overall, he is healthy. And his mother Brandon’s will to live has inspired her to make positive changes of her own.

“I went to nursing school, graduated top of the class. Now I’m currently in phlebotomy school. I’ve gotten into the medical field because of him, and I love it,” she says. “I can’t even believe that I never thought of going into it, prior to [Brandon’s accident]. I just love being able to help others.”

Most of all, however, Sims has a new appreciation for life. Brandon’s ordeal has taught her to treasure every moment they have together, she says. Sometimes, she becomes upset when she sees other parents seem to lose sight of those things.

“It’s the little things –  like, I never got to teach him how to ride a bike, or throw a ball, or tie his shoes,” she says. “Parents need to appreciate every day, every moment. Appreciate your family, dinners at home with everyone. Appreciate the moment. Don’t make it about money. Make it about the moment.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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