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'Dry drowning' claims young boy's life

June 6, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
It's a phenomenon called "dry drowning" - a form of asphyxiation that happens when a small amount of water gets into the lungs and damages tissue, causing the lungs to swell and fill up with water. When that happens, the lungs can't bring oxygen to the blood or the brain. In a bizarre tragedy on Sunday, a 10-year-old South Carolina boy drowned while on dry land, hours after leaving the pool. If a playground could hold memories, Goose Creek in Cassandra Jackson's neighborhood is overflowing with hers.

Click in the Eyewitness News story window above to watch Denise Dador's report.

"We went down the slide together, we swung together. It is very hard," said Jackson.

Jackson can bear seeing the swing where her son Johnny played, but not the pool steps.

"I feel like someone reached in and grabbed my heart and just yanked it out," said Jackson.

Johnny begged his mother to let him and his sister swim for the first time. On Sunday, she gave in.

"I lost him in the process but I gave him what he wanted," said Jackson.

While authorities say Johnny drowned -- he did not die in the pool. Johnny's mom and her friends struggle to understand it.

"He was talking, he was walking. He walked home from the pool, it was an hour that he passed away," said Jackson.

Jackson says during that time she let Johnny take a nap. The coroner says that's when the pool water, the 10-year-old ingested, filled his lungs.

"I want him right here with me. That was my heart," said Jackson.

"Dry drowning," is responsible for about 15 percent of all drowning deaths.

Experts say it occurs when water enters the lungs or gets behind the larynx. The water can flood the lungs up to 24 hours after swimming or bathing.

Johnny's mom remembers a boy who loved being the man of the house.

"We'd go out and he always opened the door and he would say ladies first and he would hold his hand out," said Jackson.

If she could -- she would do what she hopes her story inspires other parents to do with their kids. "Love them as though this was their last days because you just never know," said Jackson.

Pediatricians urge parents to know the signs of dry drowning: Breathing, extreme tiredness, and behavioral changes all signs of not enough oxygen getting to the brain.

In very rare cases, it can also occur following a bath. Experts recommend not letting a child swallow too much pool or bath water. Sometimes water enters the windpipe after diving or jumping into a pool. Any forced pressure on the front of the neck during swimming can also be a trigger.

 

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