TODAY   |  April 06, 2010

Tot trapped inside submerged car survives

Two-year-old Troy Adams spent 15 minutes underwater, trapped inside his family’s car, which had veered off an Ohio road and landed in a creek. Laura Adams, Troy’s mother, recalls the terrifying ordeal and discusses her son's recovery with Dr. Michael Bigham.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> nbc .

>>> we're back at 8:37 with another survival story that's nothing short of a miracle. a tragic accident that could have killed the adams family , including 2-year-old troy who was trapped under water in his car seat for 15 minutes . we'll talk to troy's mother laura in a moment. but first, their incredible ordeal. one look at this car, and it's hard to imagine anyone survived. the accident happened along this rural ohio road.

>> the car was over there.

>> reporter: laura adams had just picked up her twins , electric lexy and troy from daycare when she fell asleep at the wheel .

>> the car came this way and smashed into this guardrail.

>> reporter: adams and her twins were trapped in the car upside down and under three feet of water.

>> i was completely under water, drowning. i was thinking i died.

>> reporter: she managed to free herself, and with the help of a passer by, also freed lexi. troy wasn't so lucky.

>> troy spent about 15 minutes with no pulse, not breathing.

>> reporter: paramedics performed a life-saving tracheotomy. still , troy was suffering from hypothermia and had a very weak pulse. doctors had devastating news.

>> basically he was not going to make it through the night.

>> reporter: but in the week since the accident, troy has proven everybody wrong.

>> i was very happy to be wrong.

>> reporter: doctors think the cold water may actually have protected troy's brain and helped him survive. miraculously, troy isn't only surviving, he's thriving.

>> to see troy in the state he's in now, compared to seeing him lifeless is remarkable to me.

>> reporter: his twin lexy was released after only two nights in the hospital and and therapists say troy will be extra motivated to relearn motor skills to keep up with his sister. troy, who turned 2 in the hospital, came home 32 days later to a belated birthday party . a birthday doctors thought he would never celebrate and a recovery for the record books. laura adams is here along with her twins , troy and lexy and the doctor who treated them from the akron children's hospital. good morning to all of you. i just have to cut right to the end here. he's been running around, playing with your phone, playing with my scripts. he seems fine . absolutely fine after all this.

>> doing awesome.

>> do you notice any lasting effects whatsoever?

>> a little bit the way he walks and talks but he's almost back to himself.

>> a little slower. take me back, laura , to the day this happened. i doze after at wheel even for a split second. the car goes off that embankment into the canal. you wake up, you're upside down in that water.

>> right.

>> so how long did it take to you get out of the car and how hard was it?

>> about five minutes, i would guess. three or four minutes. it seemed like a lot longer.

>> got your seatbelt off --

>> i didn't have a seatbelt on.

>> how did you get out? through the door or the window?

>> i swam out a window.

>> out a window. i know you tried to get your kids out. you were having a lot of trouble. you screamed and a passer by came by and helped you get lexy out. how long do you think she was in that car?

>> a little over five minutes, maybe.

>> when she got out what condition was she in?

>> at first she wasn't responding. but about the time the paramedics showed up she started puking and breathing on her own.

>> at least you knew she was okay. i'm trying to imagine as a parent what it must be like, even as you're concerned for lexy , you haven't gotten troy out of that car yet, he's under water. he's now been under water and the clock is ticking, getting longer and longer. did you have any hope he would get out alive?

>> no. when i called my family, all i could say was troy's dead. because they had just got him out of the water at that time. i had no idea he would make it.

>> doctor, sounds like a blunt and strange question -- why didn't he die?

>> that's a great question. i have a conversation i have with families that have -- whose children's hearts have stopped.

>> excuse me one second. we had a little -- go ahead, doctor. she's okay, i think. i think she's okay.

>> when children go without oxygen for that prolonged period of time , the brain can sometimes be permanently damaged. and that's the conversation i had with laura that evening, is that i was concerned that troy's brain would be irreversibly damaged. we do think there is some protection provided by the cold water that is surely what saved troy's life and allowed him to be so high functioning at this point.

>> laura , was troy this mischievous before the accident? because he's having a ball over here with meredith 's scripts. you kept him in a medically induced coma for a little while? is that correct?

>> that's correct. the ems providers, the community hospital, the transport team that cared for him did a terrific job. we brought him in but he was lifeless. he was not responding to pain and what we did for him is, rather than rewarm him to a normal temperature, we did keep him cool for the first 24 hours after the accident, thinking that that somehow protects the brain.

>> laura mentioned she seems a couple of lingering effects. do you think there will be any long-term effect from this accident?

>> i've had conversations with the rehab specialist whose have been caring for troy on a daily basis. their expectations are that as long as he continues to progress at the rate he's been progressing, there is no reason to think he won't fully recover. he showed no plateauing at all. he's continuing to improve.

>> they are lucky kids and you're a lucky mom, laura . you really are. we're happy this worked out this way. troy, did you have fun? careful, don't fall. laura , thanks very much. lexy , nice to see you. troy, good to see you. doctor, thanks for being here.

>>> up next, no fuss italian