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In February 2017, Jamie Lynn, 30, and her daughter Maddie, now 13, were at her husband Jamie Watson's parents' house, where Maddie went for a ride on her ATV. Somehow, the ATV ended up submerged in a pond on the property, with Maddie strapped into it. Miraculously, Maddie suffered no brain damage and survived.
In her new memoir Things I Should Have Said, Jamie Lynn offers a chilling account of the harrowing ordeal and Maddie's unbelievable recovery, which is excerpted exclusively below.
The first responder got in the water just as the ATV was dragged from the pond. He lifted Maddie out and laid her down next to me. She was unconscious, her body distended, face swollen and eerily blue. The EMT started CPR. Nothing was working — not the compressions or the forced influx of air. No response. Wordlessly the EMT grabbed her lifeless body, flipped it over and began pounding on her back. I knew what I had just witnessed. My daughter's lifeless body.
Momma was in California. I heard Ms. Holly [her husband Jamie Watson's mother] say, "Lynne, Maddie's not with us anymore." I was eviscerated by the sadness as tears streamed down my face. I rose. My baby was in the ambulance. The engine started and before I knew what was happening, the truck sped down the road. One of the firemen said, "They got a pulse."
[When we got to the hospital] Maddie was intubated and endless tubes and lines extended from every part of her. There were no fewer than five machines performing different functions. The lead doctor spoke frankly. "We can't say much at the moment. Her scans don't show any damage or injury, but she's not responding to our pain or reflex tests. The next twenty-four hours are crucial and will tell us more."
I demanded to have Father Mark brought in. He joined our prayer circle and recited the Commendation of the Dying. I was so much in denial I didn't realize he was actually performing last rites. He anointed her head with oil and when he said, "Holy Spirit," Maddie began to thrash. Her arms and legs were flailing vigorously. I started to scream. [The staff] administered a sedative to keep her in a medically-induced coma to keep her from hurting herself and to allow for further healing.
Sometime around 4:00 p.m. [the next day] Maddie still wasn't responding to the manual pain and reflex assessments. I looked up and my eyes widened at the wide-eyed expression on Jamie's face. He was looking into Maddie's open eyes. She painstakingly raised her finger with the pulse oximeter on it and pointed the small red light at Jamie. He smiled and said, "E.T., phone home." She held her finger up for a moment longer and he said it again. "E.T., phone home." At that moment I knew she was definitely coming back to us.
Jamie Lynn Spears/instagram Jamie Lynn Spears and daughter Maddie in the hospital
It has taken Jamie Lynn nearly five years to open up about the distressing day and its aftermath. The country singer-songwriter began writing a book about the accident to process the experience — and that turned into Things I Should Have Said.
Tawni Bannister Jamie Lynn Spears
"I really just was introspective," Jamie Lynn says. "I was writing music, writing my story, figuring out how I wanted to tell that story specifically, and was like, 'Well, it needs context: I got to tell this, too, I got to tell this, too.' Over the years, it turned into my whole life story."
Jamie Lynn says Maddie's chapter still brings her pain.
"The hardest chapter to write and to read is the one about the accident. It has a wonderful ending, but you can't help, every time you're reading it, to go back to that..." she says. "It's still hard to even talk about it."
Jamie Lynn Spears/Instagram Jamie Lynn Spears with her husband and daughters
The accident was a turning point in Jamie Lynn's life.
"When you have the worst thing you can think of in your life happen to you, it makes you look at everything else differently. You have a lot more gratitude," she says. "That was a miracle. That should be heard. There's a lot of dark things in this world today, and I think that putting something out there like that, that is so wonderful, is something that should be shared, especially when it made so many changes in a lot of lives for the better."
Things I Should Have Said is out Jan. 18. For more from Jamie Lynn Spears, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.