"Mendez said he saw a shadow moving under the breaking water offshore, so he and a diver rushed over. They scanned the area for a few minutes before Mendez spotted the shadow again. They found the boy floating about two feet below the surface of the water.
"He was white-pale and face down," Mendez said.
As they pulled the boy on board, Mendez realized he was rescuing a child — about the age of his own daughter.
"I thought, 'Wow, this is like my own child,'" Mendez said.
Mendez drove the boy to the beach, where emergency responders began trying to revive him. There was no sign of life but they kept performing CPR as they transported him. Finally, after Dale reached a nearby hospital, his pulse returned.
Then Dale was flown from the southwest Washington coast to OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Ore. His parents were still steeling themselves for the worst.
"I expected to say our goodbyes and so did my wife, and we were just prepared for that," said Chad Ostrander, who was at the family's home in Spanaway, Wash., when it happened. But on Sunday night, as he was eased off sedatives, Dale opened his eyes.
"At that moment, that was the first glimmer of any hope," his father said. "It didn't mean he was going to make it. It just meant that there was hope."
It's unclear whether he'll fully recover, but his parents have hope.
"There's been several miracles just in the circumstances of finding him, the fact that he's not dead, the fact that he can move, the fact that he can speak," Chad Ostrander said. "Unbelievable."
Generally, the chances of surviving a near-drowning increase when a person is young, the water is cold and the time spent underwater is short. Dr. Mark Morocco, an emergency room doctor at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said medical literature cites at least one case in which a person survived after being submerged for about an hour.
Morocco said the fact that Dale was wearing long sleeves probably helped him.
It is not clear how long the boy was actually underwater. Mendez said about 15 minutes elapsed between the time rescuers were dispatched and the time Dale was pulled from the ocean.
Morocco, who was not involved in Dale's care, said swift treatment was key. He credited rescuers for continuing resuscitation efforts even though the boy lacked a pulse and reflexes.
"When this kid came out of the surf, he looked dead," he said. "But you have to ignore the fact that he looks dead" and give CPR.
Dale starting talking on Monday. When his parents encouraged him to cough to clear his throat, he replied, "I don't have to."
Doctors have cautioned his parents that even if Dale survives, he 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. "We trust (God) no matter what."
Dale will need speech and physical therapy, and can't get out of his hospital bed yet, his father said.
"Things are going along better than anyone expected so at this point we're very happy," he said.
"Honestly, all of the doctors' prospects are very negative. They're very honest and blunt. But they said every once in a while there's a miracle, and we don't want to give up on that," Ostrander said.
Dale has uttered a few more words. Ostrander said that when he told him he couldn't get out of bed, "He reared up and said, 'Yes, I can.'"
Two more words came Wednesday, when Nicole Kissel visited him.
She said he seemed to have trouble focusing his eyes for most of the 15-minute reunion. But as she left, he made eye contact for the first time and said, "Thank you."
___ Barnard reported from Grants Pass, Ore. Associated Press writers Jonathan J. Cooper in Portland, Ore., and Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this report."
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