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In what some are describing as a “flat-out miracle,”  12-year-old Dale Ostrander, who was pulled seemingly lifeless from a Washington state ocean riptide, has begun speaking, amazing his doctors. 

A school photo of Dale Ostrander

Prayer is being cited as a factor in the boy’s recovery after being underwater for more than 10 minutes at Long Beach, Washington.

“Dale Ostrander was at the beach enjoying a picturesque day trip with the Bethel Baptist Church group,” writes Amanda Frink of the local Chinook Observer newspaper. “The surf was violently agitated.” The boy was dragged out to sea, but is “alive today thanks to instantaneous heroism by a visiting girl, her dad and surf-rescue volunteers.”

“They just went for a day and were just getting in ankle- and knee-deep … it wasn’t a swimming activity — but he got sucked in,” said Denise Minge, daughter-in-law of Bethel Baptist Pastor Terry Minge.

Nicole Kissel describes rescue

That’s when 12-year-old boogie boarder Nicole Kissel heard a cry for help and saw Dale being dragged out to sea.

After hearing Dale’s call for help Friday, Nicole told CBS affiliate KOIN-TV in Portland, Ore., “I was thinking I have to go help him,” and immediately turned her boogie board toward the boy despite the objections of her father, who shouted over the crashing waves about the dangerous conditions.

Although her board is much smaller than a surfboard, “she took her boogie board and swam out to help him,” reports Frink.

She managed to reach Dale, who was struggling to stay afloat. Together, the two ruggled against the rip current and crashing waves.

Nicole helped Dale climb onto her small board — which is barely large enough for one person — then laid down on top of him, grasping the sides of the board just as they were hit by large waves and dragged further out into the heavy surf.

“When we were on that board, I kind of shouted out to myself: `We’re going to die. I can’t die like this,”‘ Nicole recalled.

At one point, in frustration, “I said a bad word,” she told reporters, and Dale admonished her, “Hey, God doesn’t like that.” Then he offered words of assurance: “Keep paddling. We’re almost there.”

Then, however, they were hit by a large wave and “were pushed down to the bottom,” writes Frink, “where the two kids lost hold of the board and each other. Nicole said she was able to grasp Ostrander’s arm and, by pushing off from the bottom, pulled him up to the surface. They both swam towards the boogie board, which was floating about 20 feet away from them toward the shore.

“But as Nicole reached the board, she looked back and the boy was gone. That’s when her father was able to reach his daughter and bring her back to shore while another bystander took her boogie board in an attempt to find Ostrander.

But the boy was nowhere to be seen.

Help was summoned, including the South Pacific County Technical Rescue Team, the Long Beach Volunteer Fire Department, Washington State Parks rangers and the Coast Guard, which was conducting drills offshore. The Coast Guard vessel dropped buoys to determine which direction the water was flowing. At least a dozen responders stood atop various vehicles — including the Long Beach Volunteer Fire Department’s brush truck — hoping to spot the boy through binoculars.

Bethel Baptist kids pray during rescue (photo by Damian Mulinix, Chinook Observer)

On the sand nearby, the 20 kids of the church youth group gathered into groups and began praying fervently for their friend.

Within about 10 minutes, Dale was found  floating two feet below the surface, according to rescue volunteer Eduardo Mendez. He and rescue swimmer Will Green carried the unconscious boy to the beach.

“For bystanders, the scene was grim,” reports Frink. “Paramedics, kneeling in the sand, continued to work on reviving him for about another 10 minutes. Amid resuscitation efforts, Ostrander was loaded into an ambulance and transported to Ocean Beach Hospital with life-threatening conditions.”

Meanwhile, the Baptist church kids kept praying. Perhaps because of their determination, responders did not give up, although the boy was not breathing, had been underwater at least 10 minutes, and showed no signs of life.

“When he was found, he was unconscious and not breathing,” reported one witness on an internet blog set up days later and dedicated to prayer for the boy. “Emergency personnel performed CPR on him and got a heartbeat and later got him to breathe on his own.”

“It’s up to paramedic discretion, not every situation is exactly the same,” explained local Fire Chief Jacob Brundage. “They have to take all the pieces of the scene and of what happened to determine the extent of resuscitation efforts. It’s up to the paramedic to make the decision when to stop efforts, and in that criteria or that protocol, there is a point where the paramedic can choose to terminate efforts, but in this case, the paramedic chose to continue resuscitation efforts to the hospital.

“I talked to my medic from that day and he said they didn’t get any pulse in the back of the rig; they discovered a pulse after they arrived at the hospital.”

At the hospital, the boy was put into an medically induced coma and airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Portland, Ore. There, doctors kept his body temperature down to help with the brain swelling.

“By Monday,” reports Frink, “Ostrander had opened his eyes.”

“The doctors just removed Dale’s breathing tube and he is now breathing on his own,” the prayer blog reported that day. “Also, because of possible damage to the brain they were unsure if he would be able to speak. Minutes after the tube was removed, the doctors told him to cough. Not only did Dale talk back to the doctors, he responded in a full sentence saying, ‘I don’t have to.’

“Dale continues to get better by the minute and the doctors are more and more amazed! God is good!”

“Believe me, people are praying all over the states and all over the world,” said Denise Minge, who is maintaining the blog. “God is truly working a miracle! I personally think he’s showing off how powerful He is and proving that He is in control.”

On Tuesday, the boy’s mother, Kirsten Ostrander, reported her son is “doing miraculously well. He is improving every day, following commands, tracking with his eyes, and even talking some. Please continue to pray as he keeps fighting strong to recover. We appreciate all your prayers.”

“This morning at 8 o’clock, he said ‘Morning’ to his parents,” reads another blog entry. “He kept trying to get out of bed. When his dad told him that he can’t get out of bed, he said very emphatically, ‘Yes I can!’ Dale’s dad says that Dale is answering ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions.”

“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,” said his father, Chad Ostrander. “Unbelievable.”

When she heard how Dale was doing, Nicole recalled for KOIN, “I thought, ‘Thank the Lord.”‘

Two more words came Wednesday, when Nicole 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.”

“This was truly a team effort,” Fire Chief Brundage observed. “Sometimes the patient’s outcome isn’t positive, but in this case it was. This was certainly one in 100. But it wasn’t his time to go.”

And then, there’s also the matter of the fervent prayers of a bunch of young Baptists on the beach.

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