Hospital offers ‘cool’ therapy for newborns

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) — Tasha Thompson says her baby, Clayton, “just didn’t want to come out.”

That was back in February, when the 29-year-old was giving birth at a LaPorte hospital. Her first three sons had been delivered without complications.

“Then he turned and took the placenta with him,” she recalled.

She had had a placental abruption. Clayton was losing oxygen and nutrients. Doctors had to perform an emergency C-section.

Afterward, the newborn was seizing and not breathing. A neonatologist arrived on scene to stabilize him. Clayton was transported to the neonatal-intensive care unit at Liberty Township’s Porter Regional Hospital.

When the infant arrived, he was placed on a cooling bed, which, over a 72-hour period, chilled his body to 95.9 degrees Fahrenheit, to help control the swelling in his brain.

“It would be like dropping you in an ice bucket,” said Elaine Merkel, director of the women and children’s pavilion at Porter.

Roughly a year ago, the hospital became the first in Northwest Indiana to offer controlled hypothermia for newborns with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, or oxygen loss to the brain. This condition affects between one and four out of 1,000 live births in the United States. While the treatment has been available in children’s hospitals for a few years now, it is new to the region.

After the three days of cooling, the bed warmed Clayton nearly three degrees to the normal human body temperature. A bedside electroencephalogram monitored his neurological activity throughout the process.

Back at the hospital for a follow-up appointment last week, Clayton smiled and laughed, causing the NICU nurses to join in. His mother said he was doing well, though doctors will continue to monitor his development.

“He’s fantastic, a normal baby, like nothing happened,” said Thompson, a Milford resident who works with people with disabilities who are living independently.

“He’s starting to roll. He laughs. He talks. He discovered his hands. And he just learned how to blow, too.”

Those first few weeks, though, were tough on Thompson, who had to be separated from her son immediately after giving birth and couldn’t come into physical contact with him for nearly a week. Clayton spent the first month of his life at Porter hospital.

In the past, a baby with Clayton’s condition would have been more likely to suffer from developmental delays, such as cerebral palsy, said Julie White, clinical educator at the Porter NICU. Previous treatments included ventilation, sedation or using an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, machine. “There weren’t a lot of things we could do for babies who had an aphyxic event during labor or the delivery process,” White said.

Outfitted with the new technology, Porter has become a referral center for babies with oxygen deprivation, getting newborns from Michigan City and Hobart in recent months. The NICU has thus far used controlled hypothermia on about a half dozen infants.

“Neonatology has just grown over the years, and this is one of the neatest modes of treatment that we’ve seen in a while,” Merkel said. “It’s just the coolest thing.”


Source: The (Munster) Times,


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