Blanket Saves Babies' Brains

FRESNO, Calif.

The Acevedo's have a hard time imagining life without this smile. But it almost happened. "I was bleeding uncontrollably," Kalipay Acevedo told Ivanhoe.

Nine months pregnant, Kalipay's placenta ruptured. Doctors rushed her into an emergency c-section. By then, baby Siana had been deprived of oxygen for 13 minutes.

"As I'm waiting, I notice they bring the priest out to talk to me, and I know something is wrong," Miguel Acevedo recalled.

Doctors at the University of Florida told the family they were going to use a blanket to save Siana's brain.

"We feel this therapy offers hope for the hopeless," Michael Weiss, M.D., neonatologist at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, Fla., said.

Instead of keeping the baby warm, the blanket cools her from about 98 to 91 degrees. Cold water circulates through the blanket, triggering a kind of protective' hypothermia that prevents brain damage.

"It decreases the amount of cerebral edema or swelling around the brain," Dr. Weiss explained.

In an 18-month study the cooling blanket reduced the death rate, risk of seizures and cerebral palsy and improved mental scores, motor skills and vision. Babies must be cooled within six hours of birth -- for a total of 72 hours.

"I really thought it was going to be some high-end, high-tech procedure," Kalipay said. "It amazes me that something like that could save or help you know a little baby's life."

A year and a half later, the little girl who wasn't expected to make it surpasses every milestone. "She's so responsive. She smiles with everyone," Miguel told Ivanhoe.

Their small sweetheart is proving to be the strongest member of the family.

This treatment can help any baby who is deprived of oxygen at birth including those who have the umbilical cords wrapped around their necks. Right now, the blanket is only used at academic medical centers. Dr. Weiss wants to create a network to implement the treatment nationwide.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Melissa Medalie atmmedalie@ivanhoe.com

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