Boy Who Survived Rip Tide Meets 12-Year-Old Rescuer, Condition Upgraded

Dale Ostrander says "thank you" to 12-year-old girl who came to his rescue

Aug. 11, 2011 -- The condition of the 12-year-old boy who spent 25 minutes underwater in the Pacific Ocean and was presumed dead has been upgraded and he has been moved out of intensive care.

"Dale's condition has been upgraded to "fair" by the hospital and is out of ICU," according to the blog,, set up in his honor. "He's not able to get out of bed yet, but he's been receiving physical therapy. He slept well last night!"

The good night's sleep, and promising medical news, for 12-year-old Charles "Dale" Ostrander came just one day after he was able to thank the young heroine who saved his life in a dramatic rescue Aug. 5 off the shores of Washington.

"Thank you," were the words Ostrander, of Spanaway, Wash., spoke to 12-year-old Nicole Kissel when she came to visit him yesterday in the Oregon hospital where the young boy continues to make a miraculous recovery.

Kissel was swimming nearby with her father in the waters off the coast of Washington last Friday when she heard Ostrander, at the beach swimming with members of his church youth group, yelling for help.

"I heard some boy say help, help me," Kissel said. Ignoring the pleas of her father, she used her surfboard to swim into the churning waves and grab Ostrander.

"When someone is about to drown or someone needs help you don't really think about it before you're about to help them," she said of her actions.

"I let him on the board first, and I got on top of him, grabbed the board and he said, 'Keep kicking, keep kicking,'" Kissel said. "When we were on that board I kinda shouted out to myself, we're gonna die, I can't die like this."

Just then, Kissel recounted, another massive wave hit them both and, while Kissel managed to make it back to shore, Ostrander did not. The boy remained at sea, pulled underwater for more than 15 minutes.

"I got up there, and I grasped the sand and said, 'He's dead.' I'm like, 'What am I supposed to do?,'" Kissel said.

Once rescuers from a volunteer surf rescue team finally spotted Ostrander and managed to pull the boy from the sea, he was not conscious and not breathing, and no one expected him to live.

On the shore, Ostrander's family and the other children from his church youth group dropped to their knees to sob and pray, led by Terry Minge, pastor of Ostrander's congregation, Bethel Baptist Church.

"I felt that I had to get hold of God at that time," Minge told ABC News. "It meant life or death."

Also waiting on the shore were medics who immediately started CPR on Ostrander and transported him to a nearby hospital where, finally, his pulse returned.

A medical helicopter then flew Ostrander to Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, where he was placed in a medically-induced coma.

The prognosis looked grim over the weekend, and the boy's parents feared the worst.

"They never expected him to live," the boy's father, Chad Ostrander, who was at the beach at the time of the incident along with his wife, Kirsten, said. "They expected him to be a vegetable -- never walk, never talk, never say a word."

Doctors in Portland tried one more time to reach Ostrander on Sunday night, easing him off sedatives and calling his name. This time, the young boy opened his eyes and blinked.

"That was when we knew, hey, maybe there is a miracle that's happening here," Chad said.

Miracle or Medical Marvel?

On Monday, those same doctors who feared Ostrander would not survive, were able to remove the breathing tube that had been keeping the boy alive, leaving friends and family even more amazed at his recovery.

"This is a miracle from God because it goes against the laws of nature," Minge, the Ostrander family's pastor, said.

Dr. Benjamin Abella, director of clinical research in the Center for Resuscitation Science at the University of Pennsylvania, said Ostrander's survival may be due to the fact that the waters in which he was submerged were sufficiently frigid.

"A number of studies have shown that hypothermia -- reduced body temperature -- is highly protective of the brain when it is starved for oxygen and blood flow," Abella said. "The water that bathed him was certainly quite cold, and it's likely that his core body temperature dropped during his cardiac arrest event."

Abella said Ostrander's age and overall health may have also been factors in his survival.

"There have been a number of reported cases where people have been rescued from icy water and restored to health," he said. "These cases are not common, but they aren't as rare as one might think."

Despite the amazing survival story, doctors continue to caution the Ostranders that their son faces a difficult road ahead of physical therapy, and could have permanent brain damage.

The physicians "were very clear that he had been under for too long, had been without oxygen for too long," Kirsten Ostrander said, adding, "We trust (God) no matter what.

"If he chooses to take Dale to heaven, and if he still chooses that, then he's still good," she said. "And if he chooses to bless us and give us back our son, he's still good."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events