Chilling babies


by Jay Crandall

Posted on November 23, 2011 at 9:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 23 at 10:21 PM

PHOENIX -- Macie Reynolds is a happy, healthy active 3-year-old, but the story of how she got there, can still bring her mother Tarin to tears.

"I get choked up every time I talk about it because it could have been so much worse," she explained.

"Worse"  because Reynold's placenta ruptured before Macie was born, and her little girl was deprived of oxygen. Although she was revived, chances were very high that Macie would have developmental problems.

"They were telling us she could have a lot of seizures ...," Reynolds said.

The most likely case was that Macie would have cerebral palsy, said neonatologist Dr. Cristina Carballo at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

"In the moderate injuries it can be up to 30 percent," she said. "In the severe injuries it is up to 90 percent."

Oxygen deprivation sets off a chain reaction of damage, explained Carballo.

"Those neurons start emitting a chemical cascade that continue the damage -- for hours, days and weeks," she said.

To stop that cascade , Macie was put in a cool cap to chill her brain.

"Cooling down their brains prevents any further injury," Carballo said.

But that was just the beginning. Now oxygen-deprived babies at Phoenix Children's are put on a cool blanket, which chills their core and mid-brain.

"It brings the brain down to 28 degrees centigrade which is about 88 or 89 degrees," Carballo said.

It also lets doctors aggressively  monitor  their brain activity and oxygen uptake because cooling alone is not enough, Carballo tells us.

"We get EEGs and MRIs the minute they hit here and they start cooling, and then we get it when they re-warm to see what the brain damage is," she explained.

After 72 hours the babies are re-warmed, and with amazing results, especially when it comes to  cerebral palsy. Carballo says the numbers speak for themselves.

:The population that we have taken care of, we should have seen a rate of about 30 percent of cerebral palsy untreated, but with the treatment, our rate has gone down to 10percent." 

It's a true success story according to United Cerebral Palsy of Central Arizona Director Armando Contrera.

"She has done a phenomenal job," he said, "As you can see the kids that are here are kids that have gone through her program and really, there is no sign of cerebral palsy."

At a recent reunion of patients, Macie,  the first, met the latest of the 108 babies treated so far.

"She is doing extremely well for what she went through and it's just amazing, unbelievable," Reynolds said.