Experts: Cold helped save 'dead' baby
Frigid air may have preserved infant's brain function
The Toronto Star
TORONTO — The Toronto hospital that pronounced a newborn baby dead, only for her to be discovered alive later, says it's reviewing all procedures that came into play.
The probe will cover all care given to the infant including "extensive resuscitation efforts" by doctors, beginning in the ambulance, Humber River Hospital said Monday. Police and EMS will be consulted, the hospital said, adding the Health Ministry was informed.
Experts say the freezing temperature early Sunday morning, when a 20-year-old delivered the baby on a sidewalk on her way to the hospital, was likely the most significant factor in the bizarre case.
The cold could have reduced the baby's metabolism, slowing the heart rate to the point that it was undetectable, said Dr. Michael Klein, professor emeritus of family practice and pediatrics at the University of British Columbia.
"The whole circulation would have stopped but the neurological condition of the child could be protected by the cold," said Klein, adding that upon warming, some metabolic systems could have restarted, causing the baby to breathe.
After about 90 minutes, officers waiting for a coroner at the Finch Ave. W. hospital saw movement under a sheet covering the baby. Police said medical staff were alerted and confirmed the girl was alive.
Co-workers at the nearby police station said the two officers are "modest" and didn't want to be interviewed.
Questions about the baby's condition Monday evening were directed to the Hospital for Sick Children, where a spokeswoman said she could not release any information.
The colder the baby got, the more brain function could have been preserved, Klein said, adding it will take time to see if there's any brain damage.
"The fact that this baby started on its own is as unusual as it could possibly be," he said, recalling similar cases with older patients.
Dr. Lennox Huang, head of pediatrics at McMaster Children's Hospital, compared the "incredibly rare" situation to therapeutic hypothermia, which is sometimes used to prevent brain damage after adults have a cardiac arrest.
In Paraguay and Mexico, there have been reports of babies being pronounced dead and later being found alive. They make no mention of cold temperatures but Huang said most "other cases where babies miraculously come back to life" are in places without sophisticated medical care.
The Humber River review is being led by Dr. Nalin Ahluwalia, chief of emergency medicine, and pediatrics chief Dr. Narendra Singh.