As Rachel Claxton entered the hospital to give birth to her baby, little did she know that the only way to save her new child’s life would be to literally freeze her to the point of hypothermia.
Upon Claxton’s entrance to the Peterborough District Hospital, doctors quickly found out that Claxton’s pregnancy was at risk since the placenta ruptured during birth, putting baby Ella at risk of quickly bleeding to death. It took the doctors nearly 25 minutes to discover Ella’s heartbeat, but the lack of any activity had doctors worried that not enough oxygen had reached the brain, and brain damage could result.
In a desperate plea to save the child’s brain function, Ella was transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital where medical equipment was used to drop the baby’s temperature down from 37C to 33.5C, a level where hypothermia typically sets in, for three days. This change in temperature allowed the swelling around her brain to subside so that it could quickly heal from the trauma of lack of oxygen. Eight days later, Ella’s temperature was back to normal, and she was allowed to go home. Even nine months later, experts suggest her brain function is normal, prompting many to try to spread the use of this technology to save more lives.