It started as a normal day at a relative's pool for 3-year-old Lizzie, but then she fell into the water. Her 13-year-old brother, Sam, rescued her, and her family thought it was the end of the story. In reality, though, it was only the beginning.
When pulled from the water, Lizzie was spitting water and her eyes were rolled back in her head; her skin was gray and her lips blue, KFVS reports. Sam performed CPR, and everyone thought Lizzie was fine. Then she started to fall asleep.
“One of the family members came by and she said, ‘Don't let that baby go to sleep,' And I said, ‘Well, why not?' and she said, ‘Because she won't wake back up,'” Lizzie’s mother, Cassandra Mark, told KFVS.
The family took Lizzie to the hospital. The Missouri toddler was diagnosed with secondary drowning, a rare condition which could have killed her.
Secondary drowning is caused by the inhalation of water. Symptoms can appear up to 24 hours after inhalation and include chest pain, fever, lethargy, persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and unusual mood changes.
According to Nationwide Children’s, secondary drowning kills by altering the coating in the lungs’ airways. Without the coating, the airways collapse and air flow is restricted. In addition, the body sends fluids into the lungs in an effort to open them.
Anyone experiencing the symptoms of secondary drowning needs immediate medical attention. There is no specific treatment but supportive care in a medical facility is required.
Globally, 1.2 million people die annually of drowning, according to the International Life Saving Federation. Half of those are children, and 20 percent of these deaths occur at private residences.
Lizzie is in the highest risk group for drowning deaths. Children ages 2 to 4 years old drown at greater rates than any other demographic, and most commonly in the backyard swimming pool.
These accidents usually happen when children are playing and accidently fall into the water, and most toddlers lack swimming experience.
A fence or other barrier around the pool could prevent most drowning incidents.
It is estimated that annually, up to 10 million people get into trouble in the water but are either rescued or can reach safety themselves.