CHICAGO – A 6-year-old Illinois boy who was buried in 11 feet of sand for hours at a northern Indiana dune is expected to make a full neurological recovery, though he may have ongoing lung problems, a doctor who treated him said Monday.
Nathan Woessner is sedated and on a ventilator but should be removed from it by the end of the week, said Dr. Tracy Koogler, medical director at the University of Chicago Medical Center’s pediatric intensive care unit.
Nathan may be released from the hospital in 10 to 14 days, she said.
He’s been in critical condition since Friday, when he was rescued after falling into a sinkhole and being buried in sand for about four hours. Nathan was climbing the Mount Baldy dune in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore with his father and two friends.
Nathan’s grandfather, Don Reul of Galva, Ill., said the 8-year-old friend saw Nathan disappear into the sand. Nathan’s father and his friend’s father could hear him at first and tried to dig him out with their hands.
They stopped when Nathan kept sinking farther under the sand. Eventually, they couldn’t hear him anymore, Reul said.
Reul, a pastor, said the family feared Nathan was dead when he was pulled out, until a cut on the boy’s face began bleeding.
Then, Reul said, “hope began to bubble up in our family that Nathan’s not gone.”
Koogler said Nathan may suffer asthma or some other lung problems because he breathed in so much sand, but she was surprised that his lungs weren’t more damaged.
“I believe he had to have had an air pocket down there,” Koogler said, saying there is no other explanation for why he survived.
Nathan was taken out of sedation long enough to demonstrate that he can move his arms, legs, toes and fingers, Koogler said, and initial tests don’t show any neurological damage.
In six months, “I hope he is acting like a normal 6- or 7-year-old,” Koogler said.