The Standard-Examiner shared a heartwarming story today that highlights both advances in brain injury treatment and the way that fast action by medical providers can save the lives of our most vulnerable patients. At the center of the story is a young family who just had their first child. The baby girl seemed to be fine immediately after the delivery. A mother, father, and grandparents were all gathered in the hospital room with the baby after her delivery, in good spirits as they passed the child around so everyone could get a chance to meet the new addition.
However, a few hours after the birth, as the mother was holding the child, something went wrong. As she placed the baby on her chest, the mother sensed that something was amiss. She pulled the baby away and noticed that she was completely limp and turning blue. It was clear that the child was not breathing. The woman’s father immediately ran out of the room and yelled for help. Two nurses rushed in and took the child down the hall. Once there, a team of medical experts went to work trying to resuscitate the baby. She was eventually hooked up to a ventilator.
One of the main concerns in these situations, when one is not breathing, is the potential effect of lack of oxygen to the brain. Many brain injuries-particularly those affecting young children-are caused when the brain does not receive oxygen for a prolonged length of time. Fortunately, the doctors at this hospital were trained in a new technique which seeks to prevent permanent brain damage as a result of oxygen deprivation. Shortly after the child was stabilized, she was placed in a device known as a “cooling cap.” The cap essentially works a controlled induction of hypothermia. The cap uses water enclosed in a tube system to circulate water around the head. Computers monitor the temperature to ensure it remains at desired levels. The treatment last for 72 hours.
Our Chicago brain injury lawyers have followed along in recent years as scientists have learned how cooling of the brain can slow the spread of damage, or in some cases, prevent brain damage altogether. A study published last year in the journal Neonatology found that the cooling can work to save lives in young babies. The lead author explained, “before neonatal cooling for birth asphyxia, death were more common and neurodevelopmental delay was obvious in over half of survivors.” Now, many of those babies are saved, and a much smaller fraction show any sign of brain injury or damage.
In this case, the cooling worked. The child seemed to recover just fine. Now, six months old the little girls seems to show no sign of disability. She has developed on schedule and is actually ahead of others infants in certain measures. She can be found laughing, giggling, sitting up on her own and crawling. Thanks to the quick efforts of well-trained medical personnel and the lifesaving new research, a potentially life-threatening injury was avoided.
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