Health Stories

Miracle baby born not breathing for seven minutes came back to life

Saved by being cooled down to 33 degrees

As told to Eva Lewicki

Born with the cord around his neck, Sally’s baby boy wasn’t breathing. Doctors warned he could die or be severely brain damaged, then a miracle happened

Sally Crowe, 39, Melbourne, Vic

Lying in the labour room, I felt excited. After a perfect pregnancy, I was about to meet my first baby.

‘Time to push,’ urged the midwife.

‘I see the baby’s head,’ my partner, David, said.

But then things took a bad turn.

‘The umbilical cord’s wrapped around his neck,’ the midwife told us. ‘It’s stopping him from coming out.’

She cut the cord to release him, but he still didn’t emerge.

‘One of his shoulders is stuck,’ she explained.

And now, he wasn’t receiving oxygen. I was terrified. As a nurse, I knew oxygen deprivation could cause severe problems.

After an agonising six minutes, our beautiful son, Beau, was pulled out by a doctor. Limp and silent, he was assessed. Devastatingly, there were no signs of life. Immediately, the paediatric rescue team performed CPR.

And after seven minutes, Beau began breathing. However, he’d been without oxygen for over 13 minutes. A specialist brought Beau to me.

‘He could die, be severely brain damaged, or he could come out of this unscathed,’ he said.

Desperately, I took in my son’s face, bloodied and bruised, before he was whisked away. Eight long hours later, I could visit Beau as he lay in NICU on oxygen and covered in tubes.

‘He’s on a cooling bed to induce hypothermia,’ the doctor explained. ‘It will give his brain a chance to recover.’

Sally's boy was born not breathing
(Credit: Sally’s boy didn’t breathe for seven minutes)

The treatment was called therapeutic hypothermia. He’d been sedated so he wouldn’t be in pain from the low temperature, and had a nasal gastric tube.

‘He’ll be okay,’ David said, squeezing my hand.

After three days, I could hold my boy briefly. Then, on day five, he had an MRI to check his brain activity. We were so worried, but we had a surprise.

‘It’s perfectly normal,’ the doctor smiled.

Two days later, we took our boy home. Incredibly, Beau hit all his milestones early. Today, he’s a happy, boisterous four-year-old. We’re so grateful to the medics – and treatment that saved him. Thanks to them, our beautiful baby came back to life. ●

Beau recovered completely
(Credit: Angihigh Photography)

THERAPEUTIC HYPOTHERMIA

  • One in 500 babies suffers from a lack of oxygen at birth.
  • The cooling treatment therapeutic hypothermia helps reduce the chances of brain injury by giving the brain a chance to heal.
  • Placed on a special mat, babies are cooled down from 37 degrees to 33 degrees for three days.

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