(PUYALLUP, Wash.) -- It was an ordinary summer day when Charles "Dale" Ostrander went to the beach with his church group. As his mother dropped him off, Dale, 12, made his customary sign of a heart for her, and she showed it back to him.
A few hours later, her son was fighting for his life after being dragged under by a riptide off the shores of Washington State. He spent an estimated 20 minutes under water in the chilly Pacific Ocean, and when rescuers pulled him out, he had no pulse and wasn't breathing. But, remarkably, Ostrander survived.
And even though he's still in the hospital, doesn't speak much now, and has to undergo grueling therapy, the Spanaway, Wash., boy is walking, dressing himself and learning to talk all over again.
In an interview with ABC News at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, Dale's parents, Chad and Kirsten Ostrander, say their son's survival is nothing short of a miracle.
"I think God answered a lot of people's prayers," Chad Ostrander said.
Dale's dramatic Aug. 5 rescue made headlines across the nation. The currents were strong that day and as the boy waded in just a little, the powerful riptide tugged his feet out from under him and swept him away.
Nicole Kissel, 12, was on her boogie board nearby when she heard Ostrander yelling for help. Ignoring the pleas of her father to come ashore, she used her board to swim into the churning waves and grab Ostrander.
"When I got to him I put him on the board, I grabbed the board and several waves hit us, one of the waves knocked us off," she said.
Emergency responders performed CPR and started an IV. At the hospital, Ostrander was placed in a medically induced coma. Four days later, he opened his eyes.
Nicole Kissel visited him that week, and he told her "thank you."
Since then, many have asked whether his survival was a due to the CPR, the cold water -- the ocean temperature was around 56 degrees, or something else.
"This is a miracle from God because it goes against the laws of nature," Terry Minge, the Ostrander family's pastor, said.
Dr. Benjamin Abella, director of clinical research in the Center for Resuscitation Science at the University of Pennsylvania, said Ostrander's survival may be due to the fact that the waters in which he was submerged were sufficiently frigid.
"A number of studies have shown that hypothermia -- reduced body temperature -- is highly protective of the brain when it is starved for oxygen and blood flow," Abella said. "The water that bathed him was certainly quite cold, and it's likely that his core body temperature dropped during his cardiac arrest event."
Abella said Ostrander's age and overall health may have also been factors in his survival.
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