March 22: Abigail Taylor: A fighter to the end

The Edina girl died at age 6 following devastating injuries from a pool-drain accident last summer. Her story helped enact new safety laws.

Abigail Taylor, the 6-year-old Edina girl whose devastating injury in a wading pool last summer inspired a new federal law to make pools safer, died Thursday evening.

Her parents were with her at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where she'd had a rare transplant surgery to replace the organs destroyed in the June 29 pool accident, said the family's attorney, Robert Bennett.

"She fought so bloody hard, and didn't catch one break. It all stems right from June 29," Bennett said Friday.

Her family declined to comment. Bennett said no funeral arrangements have been made yet.

Abigail was injured when she inadvertently sat on a wading pool drain at the Minneapolis Golf Club in St. Louis Park. Its powerful suction ripped out part of her intestinal tract.

At least three other children have suffered similar injuries since 1990; 33 others have died in drain accidents, most when they were trapped underwater in hot tubs or pools, according to federal reports.

Those tragedies prompted efforts to enact new pool safety laws. But those proposals foundered until the Taylors made their story public, said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who sponsored the new law in the U. S. Senate.

"She told her parents that she wanted them to tell her story so it wouldn't happen to any other kid," Klobuchar said Friday. "She said the same thing to me when I visited her in the hospital."

Whenever Klobuchar encountered resistance to the bill from other legislators in Washington, "I said I would tell her story every day until Christmas." Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., sponsored the bill in the House.

Congress enacted the law in mid-December, the same day that Abigail underwent transplant surgery at the Nebraska hospital to receive a new small bowel, liver and pancreas. It is one of the few places in the country that specialize in the procedure.

Multiple setbacks

Abigail later suffered multiple setbacks. In March, her father, Scott Taylor, said that his daughter needed kidney dialysis to remove excess fluid in her body, and that she'd had 16 surgeries and innumerable infections.

In late February she began chemotherapy after her doctors concluded that she had developed a cancerous condition that, on rare occasions, is triggered by organ transplants. The condition, called PTLD (post-transplant lymphoprolipherative disease), affects certain blood cells.

"They knew it was their only hope, to have this transplant," said Klobuchar, who said she kept in touch with Scott Taylor. "He just never gave up."

The new federal pool safety law bans the manufacture, sale or distribution of drain covers that don't meet anti-entrapment safety standards. It requires the use of less powerful drainage systems. The law applies to existing public pools and new ones.

The law, the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, is named for the 7-year-old granddaughter of former Secretary of State James Baker. She drowned at a graduation party in 2002 when suction from a drain trapped her.

A similar bill, sponsored by state Sen. Geoff Michel, is pending at the Minnesota Legislature. "I just feel terrible for them," he said of the Taylors. A Republican from Edina, he said he is optimistic that the bill will pass.

On Friday, the president of Minneapolis Golf Club sent a message to its members telling them of Abigail's death. It said, "Our hearts and prayers go out to the Taylor family during this difficult time and we ask that you continue to keep them in your thoughts and prayers as well."

In November, the family sued the golf club and Sta-Rite Industries, the pool equipment manufacturer owned by Pentair of Golden Valley.

Staff writer Maura Lerner and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Josephine Marcotty • 612 673 7394

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