A 7-year-old boy is making extraordinary strides following a near-drowning at a New Jersey lake over the holiday weekend, fire officials say.
The boy and his family were visiting the Crescent Cove Beach Club in Hopatcong on July 3 when the boy disappeared from view, according to Hoptacong Fire Chief Steve Kucevic.
Several firefighters happened to be at the beach club and responded immediately, Kucevic said. They found the boy at the bottom of the lake and carried him ashore, administering CPR until police and EMT arrived.
The boy may have been underwater for as long as five minutes, according to his rescuers. By the time he was transported by medical helicopter to Morristown Medical Center, his organs began shutting down.
Doctors placed the boy in a medically induced coma. But on the fourth day, his mother says, a miracle happened.
"We were talking to him, we were saying, 'Nicolas, I love you,'" said Gladys Toledo.
She touched her son's arm, and he responded by moving his own arm. The boy's father told him, "I'm right here, Papi, I love you" -- and the boy suddenly gasped, according to his mother.
By the time the rescuing firefighters visited him that day, Nicolas was awake and speaking.
Kucevic wrote on the fire department's Facebook page Saturday, "I am happy to share with our wonderful community that our prayers for Nicholas have been answered! Not only is Nicholas breathing on his own, but while visiting last night, he was even asking for watermelon and strawberries!"
Andrea Rodriguez, one of the first rescuers, said the timing was critical: "If we hadn't been there, I don't think we would have the same outcome and we wouldn't be celebrating this the way we are."
The fire chief says the entire fire department is rooting for Nicolas to make a full recovery in time for him to attend their annual picnic on Saturday.
Gladys Toledo said of her son's rescuers: "They are my angels."