The Davidson family would not be what it is today if not for a certain baby blanket. Austin, the newest member of the family, was born without a heartbeat. His mom, Lyndsey, says with tears in her eyes, "There was nothing we could do. He didn't have a chance in the world."
Lindsey had a normal pregnancy just like when their first son Jack was born. Austin was due in two days, the room was ready and everything was perfect, but a final checkup at the doctor's office revealed the baby's heart rate was dropping fast. Lyndsey was rushed to UMC for an emergency c-section.
Heath, Austin's dad, says now, "There's a reason we were in that hospital that day. They said there was a slim chance he would make it. All the doctors were in the right place at the right time."
Austin came into this world at 12:53 but time was not on his side. Dr. Ana Rojas, a neonatologist, describes that bleak first moment, "He had no signs of life basically at birth. For 11 minutes, no signs of life."
Heath says he thinks about that a lot. "I think about 11 minutes and how long it is. That's an eternity." Dr. Rojas adds, "I wasn't sure we would be able to save him. That told me: Is he going to have some impairment? Or is he gonna make it through this?" But she adds, with a smile of relief, "It took us 11 minutes to bring him back."
It was 1:04, 11 minutes after Austin was born, when he took his first breath. The family was stunned when Dr. Rojas shared the news. Jenny Davidson, Austin's grandmother, says "Dr. Rojas was so nice to come tell the whole family. She kept talking to Heath very directly. She kept telling him, ‘He's alive. You understand? He's alive.'"
Health might have been in a daze during the ordeal, but he remembers that one moment very well. "She brought him back to life. She came and told me, ‘Just remember, your baby is alive right now.'"
But that was just the first hurdle. The second was to make sure Austin had not suffered any brain damage after going so long without oxygen – and this is where that blanket comes into the story. Heath says, "She's the doctor who brought it to Lubbock and her expertise allowed them to be able to use it!"
Normally, in a neonatal intensive care unit, high tech beds and infant warmers are doing just that - keeping the baby warm. But, the Hypothermia Cooling Blanket is different. Water circulates through tiny ridges in the blanket cooling the baby from a normal temperature of 98.6 down to a delicate window of just 91 or 92 degrees. "It's still somewhat experimental. It's not widespread. Not everybody uses it. Fortunately, I did my NICU training at a center where it was part of the clinical trials," Dr. Rojas explains.
Dr. Rojas says animal studies have shown that by cooling the whole body, the internal structure of the brain is more likely to cool too. So, damaging enzymes released during a lack of oxygen are more likely to slow down and give the brain time to heal.
For a year, she's been training all her nurses to be calm, in control, and prepared for a moment just like this. "And with Austin", Dr. Rojas says, "it all came together and he was able to benefit so much from this."
After 72 hours on the cooling blanket, the final test was to see if there had been any brain damage. Dr. Rojas says, "We were able to MRI to see if any scarring from a lack of oxygen and that in itself proved a miracle. It was a normal MRI!"
Heath sums it up like this, "He's a miracle. That's all that is. We were in the right place at the right time."
Lyndsey tries to smile but you can tell she's fighting back tears when she says, "It's so hard for me to think that he almost didn't make it. Because you look at him now... and he's perfect."
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