Four-year-old Frankie Delgado went swimming during a Memorial Day weekend outing, and a wave briefly took him under.
He seemed fine after the fact, so no one initially caught on that something was wrong. The boy’s father, Francisco Delgado, said that for the next few days, Frankie seemed ill. But he did not connect the flu-like symptoms with anything more severe.
Nearly a week later, Frankie woke up and complained about shoulder pains. Later that day, he died.
“Out of nowhere, he just woke up. He said ahhh,” Delgado told KTRK. “He took his last breath and I didn’t know what to do no more.”
“The night before this happened I was just throwing the football with him, we were playing catch with him, he was running around and then Saturday morning came around and—,” he told NY Post, before getting emotional and cutting off.
“Our world just turned upside-down,” Frankie’s mother finished.
It turns out that Frankie had swallowed just a bit of water and had fluid left in his lungs, keeping him breathing properly, which eventually killed him. This is called “secondary drowning” or “dry drowning.” It is a rare condition, but for small children just a few “gasps” of water in through the mouth or nose can cause this.
One Colorado parent says Frankie’s death was not in vain.
Frankie’s death, on June 3, made national headlines. On June 7, Garon Vega noticed his 2-year-old son Gio was feeling ill.
Gio went swimming that day and ended up swallowing some water, which Vega at first didn’t think much of. Soon after, he began to complain of a headache.
Vega went online to research these symptoms.
“I came across an article about a boy who’d passed away, from something called secondary drowning,” Vega said. Gio was rushed to the ER, where the doctor confirmed that the toddler did have a “significant amount of fluid” in his lungs.
“If we had waited the night he probably wouldn’t have made it,” Vega said.
Neither he nor his wife had known about dry drowning. “I had no idea you could drown without being submerged in the water, no idea,” he said.
Vega felt he had to reach out to Frankie’s parents to say they had saved his son Gio’s life, and help spread the message to other parents as well.
“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,” Vega told ABC-13.
“There was a purpose. It was an unfortunate thing that happened, but 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.”
What are the symptoms of dry drowning and the chances of it happening?