IU football player "past immediate danger" after near-drowning

Isaac Griffith

Doctors who are treating an Indiana University football player who nearly drowned in a Florida riptide say Isaac Griffith is "past any immediate danger."

Sarasota Memorial Critical Care Physician Kenneth Hurwitz, MD is board certified in pulmonology, critical care and internal medicine. He says Griffith isn't out of the woods yet, but he's doing much better.

Dr. Hurwitz praised Isaac's friends for getting him out of the water as quickly as they did. A few minutes longer would have meant severe brain injury and permanent disability. Griffith's friends risked their own lives to pull him out of the rip current and then performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

"A lot of the credit goes to his friends. They put themselves at serious risk to help him. Two or three minutes longer and it would have been a different story," Dr. Hurwitz said.

Griffith remains in serious but stable condition, off the ventilator and breathing on his own, the doctor said. He was heavily sedated until Wednesday, when he was gradually brought out of a medically-induced coma.

Griffith got up and walked Friday. He was moved out of intensive care to a regular patient care unit. He continues to be monitored and treated for pneumonia, lung damage and risk of infection from the salt water that was trapped in his lungs.

Dr. Hurwitz says Griffith's prognosis for a full recovery is "very good." He could be discharged in a few days so he can recuperate at home.

Shannon Griffith is Isaac's father. He also spoke to the media Friday.

"It's a good day to smile," he said. He thanked Dr. Hurwitz and the entire team of physicians, nurses, respiratory care therapists and others who have cared for his son since he was admitted to Sarasota Memorial Hospital on Monday afternoon.

"From the time he got to the hospital till today, the care has been nothing but tremendous," he said. "Isaac has been winning little battles every day. I know we still have a few more to face, but we have tremendous faith in his care team and are very hopeful that things will be back to normal for him very soon."

He was emotional when he talked about the power of rip currents - the family was aware of them from past vacations on Florida's Gulf Coast - and how close his son came to drowning. He first learned of the accident when his wife called him Monday evening.

"It dropped me to my knees," he said. "It was the worst call I ever got in my life." He and his wife immediately boarded a plane to Florida and have been at their son's side since early Tuesday morning.

Doctors told the family that the intense training Isaac and his teammates perform every day played a significant part in his recovery, which has been faster than Dr. Hurwitz expected.

"Not too many people walk away from that," Shannon said, his voice choking up. "Because of his physical conditioning, the daily regimen, the cardiovascular and strength training, good nutrition - all those things, that's how we win football games. For me, now, that's how you save your life."