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Family's Tragic Dry-Drowning Story Saves Another Little Boy's Life

Photograph by Twenty20

Some good has come from one family's unimaginable tragedy, but it's a lesson we wish no family ever had to endure. In the midst of grieving the death of their 4-year-old son, a couple from Texas shared their tragic story with media outlets in the hopes of spreading awareness so that no one else would have to suffer such a tremendous loss.

Francisco Delgado Jr. and Tara Delgado took a family trip to the Texas City Dike over Memorial Day weekend with their toddler son, Frankie. He spent the day playing in water that was never more than knee-deep and yet, almost a week later, Frankie died from what is commonly referred to as "dry drowning" or "secondary drowning."

Dry drowning, like wet drowning, can happen no matter how deep or shallow the water is—but unlike wet drowning, death doesn't usually happen right away, which is what can make it so dangerous.

The condition is rare, making up only 1 to 2 percent of all drowning cases, and happens mostly to children. It occurs when water or fluids are inhaled and then build up around the lungs and heart, making it hard to breath.

The symptoms of dry drowning include a persistent cough, sleepiness, fatigue, fever and vomiting, but these signs may not manifest immediately. Some children may exhibit symptoms soon after inhaling fluid and others may seem fine for hours afterward.

If I had not told my wife that he swallowed the water, and if she had not seen that article, I think we would've ended up dispelling it as a regular sickness.

In Frankie’s case, he had an upset stomach and was vomiting after the day spent playing in knee-deep water, but his parents didn’t think it was anything serious because why would they? Kids get stomach bugs all the time, plus illness after swimming is pretty common.

Frankie’s father said that by Saturday morning, the little boy complained that his shoulders were hurting. Then, after sleeping for a few more hours, the little boy woke up, took a breath and died.

"Out of nowhere, he just woke up. He said 'ahhh,'" said Delgado. "He took his last breath and I didn't know what to do no more." Paramedics and doctors tried to resuscitate the child to no avail.

After the Delgados shared their story so other families would know the signs and be able to seek appropriate medical treatment before it's too late, they had no way of knowing just how important their message would be to one Colorado family.

Less than a week after Frankie's death, Garon Vega's 2-year-old son Gio complained about a headache after swallowing water while swimming. The toddler developed a fever and then began having trouble breathing. The Vegas began searching their son's symptoms on the internet and came across the Delgados' story. They decided to take Gio to the emergency room right away—and what doctors found was shocking and scary. The toddler had fluid in his lungs.

Garon Vega told a local TV news station that a doctor treating his son told them Gio likely would not have made it through the night if they hadn't brought him to the hospital when they did.

“I had no idea that you could drown without being submerged in the water,” Vega told reporters. "I feel like I needed to reach out to the parents of little Frankie and tell them, I don't know how to word it, but their little boy saved our little boy's life ... if I had not told my wife that he swallowed the water, and if she had not seen that article, I think we would've ended up dispelling it as a regular sickness."

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