Mom 'so, so terrified' as 4-year-old girl nearly died of 'dry drowning' after inhaling pool water

PHOTO: Eliana Grace, 4, receives treatment at a hospital in Sarasota, Florida, on April 19, 2018, days after inhaling water in her familys pool.PlayLacey Grace
WATCH 4-year-old girl nearly dies from dry drowning

A 4-year-old girl nearly died from "dry drowning" after she inhaled water in her family's swimming pool in southwestern Florida, her mother said.

Elianna Grace, 4, was with family members in their backyard pool in Bradenton, Florida, on April 14. The little girl was playing a game where she would blow water at them through a pool noodle -- a hollow, foam tube that floats in the water.

When someone went to blow water back at her, they didn't realize Elianna was already on the other end of the noodle and blew water into her mouth, according to the girl's mother, Lacey Grace, who said it was a "freak accident."

Elianna immediately threw up after swallowing the pool water. But about 30 minutes later, she seemed fine and was back to playing, her mother said.

Two days later, Elianna came down with a fever that wouldn't go away. Lacey Grace said she recalled reading about a 4-year-old Texas boy who died last year from a rare condition called "dry drowning," hours after he had inhaled water while swimming. Fearing the same could happen to her little girl, Lacey Grace took her daughter to the nearby Sarasota Memorial Urgent Care Center last Wednesday.

"Honestly, on the way to the urgent care, I kind of thought I was overreacting and was truly expecting them to say, 'Her lungs sound great, it's just viral, she just needs to rest,'" Lacey Grace told ABC News in an interview Monday.

PHOTO: Eliana Grace, 4, receives treatment at a hospital in Sarasota, Florida, on April 19, 2018, days after inhaling water in her familys pool.Lacey Grace
Eliana Grace, 4, receives treatment at a hospital in Sarasota, Florida, on April 19, 2018, days after inhaling water in her family's pool.

But while being checked out by a doctor, Elianna's heart rate suddenly sped up, her oxygen levels dropped and her skin turned purple. The doctor told Lacey Grace to get her daughter to the closest emergency room as soon as possible, she said.

"I could sense the immediate concern written all over his face, so that was the first time I truly broke down," Lacey Grace told ABC News, adding that she and her daughter were "both crying together."

"At that point, I had no clue how it was going to end," she said. "I was so, so, so terrified."

Lacey Grace called her husband as she rushed their eldest daughter to the emergency room at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, where she said a chest x-ray showed inflammation and an infection in Elianna's lungs caused by the chemicals in the pool water.

The toddler appeared to be slowly suffering from "dry drowning" or "secondary drowning," the mother said. Both are rare drowning complications that share many symptoms, but the former usually occurs soon after water is inhaled while the latter can occur hours later.

PHOTO: Eliana Grace, 4, receives treatment at a hospital in Sarasota, Florida, on April 19, 2018, days after inhaling water in her familys pool.Lacey Grace
Eliana Grace, 4, receives treatment at a hospital in Sarasota, Florida, on April 19, 2018, days after inhaling water in her family's pool.

Two hours later, Elianna was transferred by ambulance to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. She was treated for aspiration pneumonia, secondary to pool water ingestion, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

The little girl was in the hospital for four days, where she relied on an oxygen tank to breathe and received round-the-clock care.

Lacey Grace, who also has a 23-month-old daughter, said her coworkers have kindly set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for Elianna's extensive medical bills.

Elianna was released from the hospital Saturday afternoon, exactly one week after inhaling the pool water. Lacey Grace said her daughter is "doing well" and "getting better everyday," though she's still not quite her self.

"I've already seen drastic improvements with her," Lacey Grace told ABC News. "If we could get her to eat better and stop being so lethargic, I would consider her back to her normal self."

"We're currently still waiting for that day right now," she added.

ABC News' Rex Sakamoto contributed to this report.

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