Little girl survived drowning after brother performed CPR—but aunt noticed something—rushed to ER

"In the past we would normally just make sure they weren't coughing and wouldn’t call for help unless the person was unconscious.”
November 17, 2017 6:14 pm Last Updated: November 17, 2017 7:09 pm

Most would agree that there is nothing worse than losing your child to an accident. But there is something that can make the tragedy even worse. What if you thought your child was saved, but then she dies because of a delayed effect that could have been prevented with a little knowledge and alertness?

This is the heart-breaking calamity that nearly befell the Cassandra Marks’s family after she thought her little girl had survived a drowning. When 3-year-old Lizzie had fallen into the swimming pool, her older brother, Sam, had pulled her out and performed CPR. Cassandra had run out to find her little girl conscious again, and hadn’t been told that Lizzie had stopped breathing for a moment before Sam took action.

“She was gray in the face, blue in the lips, and her eyes were in her head,” Sam said.

“She was spitting up water and stuff. I didn’t know what was happening. I was really scared.”

So, Cassandra had just been relieved that nothing serious had happened. But after a few hours, when the little girl began getting drowsy, her mother just assumed that she was tired from the trauma of nearly drowning and was going to let her go to sleep.

Fortunately, the child’s aunt happened to come over and noticed Lizzie’s sleepy behavior.

She immediately warned Cassandra Marks not to let the girl fall into sleep, adding that she “won’t wake up again.”

Cassandra hadn’t known anything about secondary or delayed drowning—which is the result of the lung retaining water from the initial drowning incident. While the symptoms may not show up immediately, medical experts suggest that it’s important to keep an eye on the patient for the first 24 hours.

Chest pains, fatigue, and difficulty breathing are common signs of this condition.

It’s important to immediately see a physician to ascertain the cause. Even if the person isn’t exhibiting obvious signs, a general lethargy after the near drowning can also be a cause for alarm. The best decision is to visit the emergency room to ensure that the patient is recovering at a normal pace.

Lizzie was not getting better, so when her aunt, Zina Jacobs, realized that she might be suffering from secondary drowning, the family immediately took the child to the hospital.

Lizzie remained there for seven hours, and her mother learned that she had just survived a second drowning.

“It terrifies me. I’m so thankful to God that he did allow her to breathe again,” Zina said.

The girl’s lungs had retained water from her dip in the pool, which had started to cause a pulmonary edema and made it harder for her to breathe. The process was so slow and insidious that even Lizzie hadn’t registered any discomfort in her body.

Cassandra Marks couldn’t believe how big a part luck played in her child’s survival. Zina had only recently heard about the condition, and without that bit of information they might have lost Lizzie.

“My daughter had told me about it,” said Zina. “I never knew that something like that could happen. I know sharing what I learned had helped save my niece and with that person knowing she was quick to react to the situation. In the past we would normally just make sure they weren’t coughing and wouldn’t call for help unless the person was unconscious.”

This experience pushed the family to help spread awareness about the condition, so that other Lizzies could be saved. According to the CDC, 400 drownings occur every year, and a portion of those are secondary drownings.

As Zina put it, the trivia about delayed drownings made its way through four other people before reaching her and saving a loved one. The important thing is to keep making people aware of such conditions, so they can be alert for its symptoms and act in time to preserve a life!

Learn to spot the signs of secondary drowning: