Frankie Delgado, a 4-year-old boy from Texas, died from drowning days after a family swimming trip, even though he was swimming in knee-deep water. This rare condition is referred to as “secondary drowning” or “dry drowning.”

Technically, this term is not approved by the World Health Organization or by the World Congress on Drowning. However, doctors explain that people can die from drowning even once they have left the water for hours. Water can stay in the larynx; therefore the airways are blocked, and the flood can absorb air because it lacks. Then the lungs fill with blood and fluids. Frankie’s family wanted to tell their kid’s story to help other kids.

“Out of nowhere, he just woke up,” Frankie’s father said. “He said ‘ahhh,’ he took his last breath — and I didn’t know what to do no more.” Image credit: iStock.

Frankie’s parents couldn’t understand why his son’s lungs got filled with fluids

Frankie Delgado’s family went on a trip on June 2 where they swam, as their family recalled, in knee-deep water. They came back home safely, but on June 3 the 4-year-old started feeling bad. He began vomiting and he had diarrhea. He told his father that his shoulders ached. Then, Frankie took a nap but he suddenly woke up trying to catch a breath, and that was it. He was dead.

His father freaked out, and he didn’t know what was going on. He called 911, and Frankie was taken to the hospital, where doctors tried to bring him back to live, unsuccessfully.

Frankie Delgado
Little Frankie Delgado. Image credit: Delgado Family.

“I walked in. I could see him lying there; they were still working on him,” said his mother, Tara Delgado. “I’m screaming, ‘Let me just touch my baby! Maybe he needs his mama’s touch.’”

Doctors found that Frankie’s lungs were full of fluids and said that probably Frankie died from dry drowning or secondary drowning. Their parents could not understand how his son died if he had left the water safely on the swimming day.

Dry Drowning is a rare affliction

The doctors explained that Frankie experienced dry drowning because his airways spammed and closed due to the reaction of water in the larynx. Since the airways were blocked, the blood could not absorb the required air needed from the air sacs, and these eventually shrunk because there was no air. The lugs then filled with mucus and other fluids.

However, dry drawing is a rare thing to happen, and not many people know that it is possible to drown days after leaving the swimming pool or the beach. Symptoms include coughing, a change in the color of lips and fingers and difficulty to breath. As well, kids can also show irritability and a strange change in their energy because no air is getting to the brain.

Frankie Delgado
Image credit: Delgado Family.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least ten people die each die from unintentional drowning. This is the second leading cause of “injury death” for kids between 1 and 14 years. However, dry drowning is not something recognized by the agency.

Are secondary drowning or dry drowning a real thing?

Secondary and dry drowning are terms used shyly to describe these atypical incidents. Some doctors interchange them. However, according to other physicians, Frankie would have died specifically from dry drowning, arguing that secondary drowning occurs when the water gets in the lungs washing out the surfactant which allows the organ to absorb oxygen. Then the oxygen and the C02 are interchanged, and that leads to failure of the respiratory system. The lugs then get filled with fluids.

Even if that distinction is appropriate, both processes happen hours or days after leaving the water, and their symptoms are practically the same.  No specific treatment is available for secondary or dry drowning; however, oxygen can be provided until the lungs start working regularly. Doctors can advise parents to watch after their kids when they are swimming and even after that.

Maybe the reason for all the ignorance and confusion regarding these terms is the lack of recognition they have in important medical debates. Actually, “secondary,” “dry,” “silent” and “passive” are not terms associated with drownings in the reports made by the World Health Organization.  In 2002, the World Congress on Drowning also rejected “wet drowning” and “secondary drowning” as actual medical terms.  This is why doctors don’t usually speak about them.

However, whether the terms are recognized or not, Frankie’s parents wanted to share the story of his son to help other parents identify the symptoms of dry drowning so they can save their kids from similar deaths. In fact, they apparently have done so. Frankie’s case might have saved the life of a 2-year-old from Colorado, who had similar symptoms hours after he was swimming. His parents saw the news and rushed to take their kid to the hospital, where doctors found fluids in the little boy’s lungs.

Source: Tech Times