PLEASANT GROVE — Two patients remained in two different hospitals in Utah County on Wednesday following dangerous chlorine exposure at a busy public pool a day earlier.
When lifeguards first cleared swimmers from the water at Pleasant Grove Veterans Memorial Pool, 582 E. 300 South, on Tuesday, most people didn’t know why. It turned out to be a frightening emergency for the kids who were exposed and their parents.
As many as 50 people became sick after high amounts of chlorine were inadvertently pumped into the water. The majority of the victims were treated and released from two different Utah County hospitals later that night.
But Luke Burnett, who was the last child out of the pool, remained at Timpanogos Regional Hospital until late Wednesday afternoon, when he was cleared to go home.
Luke said he was still feeling stomach pain, but nothing like the dizziness and loss of motor skills the 5-year-old experienced just after the chlorine exposure.
"I was a little terrified," said his mom, Amanda Burnett.
The mother said it was like a scene out of a movie.
"The lifeguards started blowing their whistles," she recalled.
She had just given her four kids a 10-minute warning before the family needed to leave. She spotted Luke in the middle of the pool, and called him in.
As Burnett prepared to leave with her kids, she still did not know what had happened. She thought to herself there might have been a drowning, or an injury. Then she saw the chaotic scene developing around her.
"I looked around and there were kids coughing, and kids foaming at the mouth, and throwing up blood, bloody noses. I turned around (and said) 'What is going on?'" she said.
As they exited the pool area, police pointed kids and parents in the direction of medics.
"I looked at all of my kids, and none of us were coughing, none of us were having symptoms,” she said. “I thought 'OK, we’ll just stay here.'"
But within minutes, Luke became extremely lethargic.
"Just kind of like bobbing his head and not really keeping it up straight."
He was also starting to blister under his eyes. They hosed him off, as they were doing with others who had been exposed to the chlorine, but Luke was still struggling. Paramedics checked his blood-oxygen level, found it was low, and sent him to the hospital immediately.
"And then it just went downhill so fast," she said.
Luke was the first patient admitted to pediatric intensive care Tuesday. Doctors gave him breathing treatments and oxygen to open up his airways.
The majority of the patients who ended up at the hospital breathed in small amounts of chlorine, and should not have any lingering concerns, doctors said.
"So, we had to watch to make sure that they didn't develop any burns along their mouth and into their esophagus and into the stomach," said Dr. Dustin Monroe, pediatric intensivist at Timpanogos Regional Hospital.
It was all-hands-on-deck kind at the hospitals Tuesday night. Timpanogos Regional Hospital called in extra personnel and enacted its mass casualty plan for the first time and had to triage patients as they arrived.
Doctors gave breathing treatments and oxygen therapy for respiratory injuries suffered from breathing in the chlorine.Comment on this story
"Some of the kids are going to still have some coughs,” said Monroe. “When chlorine gas affects your respiratory system, it can actually damage the cells inside of your lungs. That's going to take some time to heal."
Those who breathed larger amounts, or even ingested gulps of the water may have other concerns that they will need to monitor with their physician.
Pleasant Grove Veterans Memorial Pool remained closed Wednesday as officials inspected the pump and monitored chlorine levels in the water.
Correction: An earlier version said Luke Burnett was treated at Utah Valley Hospital. He was treated at Timpanogos Regional Hospital.