Two years ago, if you were to read a story where a baby fell into a pool and was not resuscitated until two hours later, we would all expect the worst. If the child survived, it would most likely have been diagnosed with severe brain damage that might leave it in a vegetative state for the rest of its life. But it’s 2017, and today doctors may have found a way to reverse brain damage for one little girl.
Tragedy struck the Carlson family when two-year-old little Eden drowned in the family pool.
And this world’s first reversal is all thanks to the work of a few brilliant doctors and something called hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
In February of 2016, two-year-old Eden Carlson squeezed past a baby gate, and opened a heavy door to her family’s backyard as her mother was taking a shower in their Arkansas home.
Once outside, Eden fell into the family pool, and, unable to swim, drowned.
Fifteen minutes later, her mother, Kristen Carlson, discovered her daughter lifeless in the pool. She had been underwater for nearly 10 minutes.
Horrified, she pulled Eden out and performed CPR. Ambulances arrived, but the little girl did not wake up.
Medical staff rushed her to the emergency room of Washington Regional Medical Centre, but it took two hours for her heart to beat again.
She was alive, but her brain had gone without oxygen all that time. Doctors prepared the Carlson family for the worst.
“We were told to expect that she may be a vegetable her whole life,” Carlson told ABC News.
Doctors believed Eden’s brain damage was irreversible, but the Carlson’s never gave up hope for their little girl.
The family refused to give up on Eden, though. Instead, they turned to Dr. Paul Harch, of LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, who recommended an experimental procedure—normobaric oxygen therapy. The procedure worked by increasing oxygen flow to the body through tubes inserted into the nasal passages.
Fifty-five days after Eden drowned, she began the treatments; twice a day for 45 minutes each.
“What we saw was an immediate improvement,” Dr. Harch told ABC News.
Eden went from squirming, and unable to eat orally, to regaining motor function in her arms and legs, and even the ability to speak and laugh.
Dr. Harch and the Carlson family decided to continue and expand the oxygen treatments. Three weeks after Eden began her normobaric treatments, the Carlson’s moved her to the LSU facility in New Orleans to begin hypobaric oxygen treatments— which used a large, air-tight, cylindrical tube that would pump in oxygen at pressures greater than the atmosphere.
After Eden began oxygen therapy, the family saw a marked change in her condition.
The results were astounding. After just a few sessions, Eden’s mother saw a dramatic change.
“Watching her be in a vegetative state to sitting up again, crawling, and then pulling to stand, and taking those very first shaky steps last summer—it’s been absolutely amazing,” Carlson told ABC News.
In fact, her recovery was so astounding that after her treatments, not only was her brain near fully-healed, her speech ability was assessed to be even greater than it was now than at the time of drowning according to Science Alert.
“We know this is absolutely unprecedented, and completely miraculous that she is the way that she is today,” Carlson told ABC News.
She was nearly healed at the end of her oxygen therapy. However, the procedure is still experimental.
Still, while the procedure was a success in Eden’s case, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is still experimental.
“The startling regrowth of tissue in this case occurred because we were able to intervene early in a growing child, before long-term tissue degeneration,” Dr. Harch told the Newsroom at LSU Health New Orleans.
Before it is able to be used for wide-scale treatment, more tests need to be done. That being said, if further tests can prove the efficacy of the treatment more kids might have the same chance that little Eden did.
“I’m walking!” Eden said in a YouTube video. “I’m walking, daddy! I’m walking, daddy!”
Watch Eden’s amazing transformation below: