Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cap Sustained a Tiny Life, Protected Parents' Hope; Pair Credits Device Used at Hospital for Saving Their Daughter as Traumatic Birth Yielded a Little Living Miracle

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cap Sustained a Tiny Life, Protected Parents' Hope; Pair Credits Device Used at Hospital for Saving Their Daughter as Traumatic Birth Yielded a Little Living Miracle

Article excerpt

Byline: KATE HOWARD

Newborn Kaylee Wheaton was barely hanging on to life, her first hours filled with brain bleeds, organ failure and seizures.

Her twin sister, Riley, died in the womb, prompting an emergency Caesarean section birth. Kaylee was immediately hooked up to so many machines, her parents, Chris and Maria Wheaton, could only touch her feet.

They had her quickly baptized. Doctors at Wolfson Children's Hospital gently recommended they postpone her sister's funeral in case they would need to bury both of their children.

But Kaylee turned 2 years old last week, defying the terror her first days brought. She's a fearless little girl who loves SpongeBob SquarePants, chasing the family dogs and chatting up strangers. The family attributes her recovery to a new technology called a cooling cap, which probably saved her life and prevented her from suffering long-term effects from her brain injuries.

"I do believe if it wasn't for that cooling cap, she wouldn't be here today," Maria Wheaton said.

The cap is primarily to treat hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, known as HIE, a brain injury that could lead to developmental disability, cerebral palsy, mental retardation or death. The cooling cap is used on a handful of babies at Wolfson each year. They usually suffer an acute injury either in the womb, as Kaylee did, or before birth.

Wolfson has had the cap for about two years and is believed to be the only Northeast Florida hospital with the technology. Spokespeople at Shands and St. Vincent's hospitals said they would transfer a child to Wolfson for that kind of intervention.

"Up until the head cooling cap, we were really not able to provide more than supportive care for babies who had suffered some insult to their central nervous system before birth," said Mark Hudak, a neonatologist at Wolfson Children's Hospital. "It's not always 100 percent effective, but it certainly reduces the chance of some of the bad outcomes you'd expect."

GRADUAL REWARMING

If used within a few hours of birth, normally for a period of 72 hours, the cold water circulating through the cap lowers the temperature of the child's brain to a hypothermic state and reduces swelling and susceptibility to further injury, Hudak said. …

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