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The Miracle Survival of a Toddler

A 13-month-old toddler found virtually frozen and clinically dead after she wandered outside on a freezing Canadian night has survived the ordeal without brain damage according to her doctors. Dr. Allan De Caen, one of the doctors who treated the baby girl, is calling it a miracle. The identities of the child and her mother have not been released.


The 13-month-old girl dressed only in a diaper, woke up in the middle of the night and went out a back door that was not secured. Her mother awoke at 3 in the morning to find her daughter missing. After a frantic search, she found her 45 minutes later, lying face down in the snow with her hands curled underneath her body.


When she was found, the baby's body temperature was 60.8 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius). Her toes were frozen together and responding paramedics had trouble getting a breathing tube into the child's throat because her mouth was frozen shut.


De Caen is a pediatric intensive care specialist at Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton, Canada. He called the little girl's survival a "miracle." "I think to be fair I'm using the word miracle now," says De Caen.


De Caen says her heart stopped beating for 2 hours. A police detective who investigated the case said the girl was "frozen solid" when she was discovered.


It was minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius) outside where the girl was found. De Caen says when the baby arrived at the hospital she had no vital signs and was not breathing.


The doctors began attempts to resuscitate: 90 minutes later, she had warmed up a few degrees and her heart had started to pump on it's own.


A team of eight doctors and 15 nurses worked on the child. Within hours she was opening her eyes and moving around, acting like a very sick 1-year-old. She is no longer on a breathing tube and is receiving morphine to help with pain. Her hands and feet are bandaged and a plastic surgeon is keeping an eye on her.


The baby girl, her 2-year-old sister, and her mother were all overnight guests at a friend's home. She celebrated her birthday last week. Originally, the police considered criminal charges, but they say they have ruled that out at this point. They are now calling it a tragic accident.


De Caen says the girl still has a long recovery ahead. She suffered extensive frostbite injuries that will require careful attention. Plastic surgeons are watching her progress carefully.


The doctor calls this the most extreme case of surviving the cold that he has seen. Only three or four children in the world have survived such low body temperatures according to De Caen.


This case has had quite an impact on the medical team who fought to save the little girl. It has been an emotional and rewarding experience according to some. "The mood in the unit definitely went up a notch or two when she woke up," says nursing manager Brigitte Martens. "It was wonderful."

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