This Heartbreaking Story Reveals a Hidden Danger You Should Know About This Summer

June 14th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

The tragic story of a four-year-old boy who died from "dry drowning" has a more positive twist: it reportedly saved the life of another child. 

Frankie Delgado drowned a week after going under the water. The boy went under for a few seconds after a wave hit him at Texas City Dike, and he seemed fine when he got back up. 

"He had fun the rest of the day," Francisco Delgado Jr., Frankie's father told CNN. "I never thought nothing of it."

However, the next day Frankie threw up and had diarrhea so his parents took him to the doctor, who said that it was probably a stomach bug from the bacteria the boy ingested with the water a day prior. Within a week, Frankie was dead. 

"I love my son so much. I'm always touching him, and I'm always talking to him when he's sleeping, and all of a sudden he just woke up," Delgado told CNN. "He looked at me, and he just rolled his eyes back and took a deep breath. I was like 'Frankie, what's wrong,' and I got up real quick, and I saw that he took a breath but never exhaled."

Frankie was rushed to the hospital but doctors told his parents he died of "dry drowning," or "secondary drowning." The official cause of death has not been released by the coroner, however.

Reports of Frankie's death started a conversation about this lesser-known killer.

After seeing Frankie's story in the media, a father in Colorado said he was able to recognize symptoms in his own son. 

Garon Vega said his two-year-old son Gio became sick after inhaling water at a community pool—and because of Frankie's story Vega brought him to the hospital. The doctors told Vega his son would have died that night if he had not brought him in for treatment.

"The X-rays did show that he had a significant amount of water in his lungs, and that it was a good thing that we brought him in because if we hadn't have, he wouldn't have made it through the night," Vega local station KSAT

What is dry drowning? 

The term dry drowning is often used interchangeably with secondary drowning, although they are different conditions. Dry drowning happens when a person gets a small amount of water in their nose or mouth, causing a spasm that makes the airway close. Secondary drowning occurs when a small amount of water gets into a person's lungs, causing inflammation that blocks a transfer of oxygen. Both can cause death. 

Is it common?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not keep statistics on secondary or dry drowning, but experts say both are relatively rare compared to other types of drowning. The CDC says that about 4,000 people die from drowning every year; estimates range from as low as 80 to as high as 600 for deaths attributed to dry or secondary drowning each year.

Vega said he is thankful Frankie's tragic death gave him the knowledge to save his own son. 

"I feel like I needed to reach out to the parents of little Frankie and tell him, I don't know how to word it but, their little boy saved our little boy's life," Vega told KSAT. "There was a purpose."

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