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Toddler survives being submerged in car; returns to hospital to meet rescuers

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Four weeks after a 2-year-old Rush City boy was pulled from a submerged car, he's meeting the people who saved his life, FOX 9 reports.

Royce Rivera was smiling and giving fist bumps to first responders Thursday, and even sneaking a finger-lick of frosting off a Batman-themed cake, FOX 9 says.

Less than a month ago, his family wasn't sure he would be here.

Rivera was sitting in the vehicle around 10 p.m. Oct. 19 – his mother, 23-year-old Jessica Delcourt was driving; his infant sister was a fellow passenger, the Kanabec County News reported.

According to the State Patrol, the car came to a slight left turn on Highway 65 in Mora, ran off the right side of the road and landed in Mora Lake, eventually becoming completely submerged.

Delacourt managed to free herself and her daughter, escaping unharmed, the Kanabec County News said.

Rivera went under, and spent 25 minutes there before rescue crews managed to tow the car above the surface and cut him out. He was unresponsive and "limp," the County News reported, and airlifted to Children's Hospital in Minnneapolis.

He was initially in a coma, according to the family's GiveForward page.

He spent more than a week in the hospital, and was released on Oct. 29. But he returned Thursday to meet the first responders who saved him, FOX 9 reports.

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The family has a GiveForward campaign, and hopes to raise $5,000. As of Friday morning, the total was at $1,075.

The crash came 11 months after a similar incident in St. Louis Park, in which the vehicle 23-year-old Marion Guerrido was driving went off an exit ramp and into a holding pond. Five kids were in the car at the time and were completely submerged in the freezing water for anywhere from 25-45 minutes. Two of the children died. Guerrido managed to get out of the vehicle before it went under.

How do children survive such a physically catastrophic event? The cold water helps.

Dr. Aaron Burnett, an assistant medical director for Regions Hospital Emergency Medical Services, told the Pioneer Press the cold slows cells' metabolism, meaning they don't need as much oxygen to operate. The chance of a successful resuscitation within the first hour is actually "really good," Burnett said – much more so than if the water had been warm.

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