Baby who didn't breathe for 17 minutes after birth escapes brain damage after doctors put her in a 'fridge' for three daysBy Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:32 AM on 16th March 2011
A baby girl who didn't breathe for 17 minutes after birth was miraculously saved when doctors put her in a 'fridge' for three days.
Sophie Fleet suffered complications at birth and swallowed fluids which caused a blockage in her airways and starved her brain of oxygen.
Doctors decided to lower Sophie's temperature from its normal 37C to 33.5C for three days in a bid to stop her brain swelling and causing brain damage.
Sophie had to wear a special 'fridge' suit, which was pumped with water to keep her body cool.
Her parents couldn't hold her for six days and had to wait for scans to show the extent of any brain damage.
They said the first few days of her life - at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Hants - were a nightmare.
Father Cain Fleet, 35, from nearby Gosport, said: 'It was really distressing. Sophie wasn't breathing to begin with and so her brain started to swell.
'They whisked her away when she was born and then someone told us that they were cooling her body. We'd never heard of the treatment before.
'Hypothermia is quite dangerous. We were amazed they could use it in a controlled manner to heal. It's incredible.
'The doctors had to work on her for seven hours before we were allowed to see her and it was a further six days before we could hold her.
'Once they had her stable, the specialist explained to us what they had done so we didn't get too panicked by all the machines monitoring her and the tubes going into her.
'They explained that they had to bring her temperature down to 33.5 degrees and put her into induced hypothermia for 72 hrs to prevent further brain swelling and damage.
.'This period was the most traumatic period we have ever experienced. I have never felt a baby so cold.'
'We were numb for about three days and then we had to wait to find out how bad any brain damage was.
'The first time we touched her, she was so cold.
'It was so strange because babies are supposed to be warm. It made you want to put a blanket over her to warm her up.'
Sophie's body was later warmed to normal temperature again over 12 hours.
She then had tests done which showed she had suffered mild brain damage.
But her parents know it could have been a lot worse and are grateful the hospital had the life-saving equipment, which is not available everywhere.
Mr Fleet, a builder, said: 'Had she not had this treatment, the brain damage could have been severe or it could have been fatal.
'We're so grateful that our local hospital has this equipment.'
Miss Hall, a special needs teaching assistant, added: 'The hospital was fantastic. If it wasn't for them and the technology, she would not have pulled through.'
Huw Jones, a consultant neonatologist at the hospital, said: 'Until about two years ago all you could do was to support the baby.
'They would be in intensive care, but there was not much you could do to protect their brain.
'This cooling treatment helps slow everything down and helps stop brain damage.
'Research and trials have shown it works and this is the optimum temperature to reduce that brain damage risk.
'The suit the baby wears constantly monitors the temperature and the machine will pump cooler water round the suit if the baby warms up, or warmer water if the baby gets too cold.
'The process is something we've seen work well and we've had some good success stories with babies pulling through and being better than we would have expected.'
Sophie was born on February 11, weighing 7lbs 11oz. She was able to go home with her parents nine days later.
Doctors say only time will tell how the brain damage she suffered is going to affect her.
But Miss Hall said: 'So far she's doing everything a baby should be doing.'