Meet this year's kids

Noah Ashley, 11 months
Cooling Therapy

When Noah Ashley was being delivered by Cesarean section near his home in Williamsburg in January, his mother Meredith had no notion she would require cutting-edge treatment at CHKD’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a unit most associate with premature births.

But as soon as he was delivered, it was clear that Noah was desperately sick, close to death. Noah suffered a rare condition in which the placenta pumps blood from the fetus to the mother, resulting in chronic oxygen deprivation.

By the time he was delivered, Noah brain had suffered prolonged oxygen deprivation, a condition that results in severe neurological impairment or death in 80 percent of cases.

Fortunately for the Ashleys, CHKD is home to neonatologist Tom Bass, one of the nation’s preeminent researchers in neonatal hypoxia. Dr. Bass helped pioneer a treatment in which a baby’s body and brain are cooled immediately after birth.

Based on observations of children who emerge without brain damage after prolonged periods submerged in freezing water, the therapy interrupts an otherwise inevitable cascade of brain-cell death that occurs over 72 hours and is often fatal.

Alerted to Noah’s conditions, CHKD’s NICU immediately dispatched a Mobile Intensive Care Unit to the Williamsburg hospital and instructed the hospital staff to shut off all baby warmers. When Noah arrived at CHKD, he was placed on a special blanket that circulates cool water and lowers the infant’s temperature to a steady 91 degrees.

Patents and even nurses feel uncomfortable at the sight of a newborn being cooled instead of warmed and swaddled, but cooling therapy has proven almost miraculous in halting the progression of brain-cell death. After several days, Dr. Bass and his team gradually warmed Noah’s body. Noah slowly began recovering, his oxygen-deprived brain cells regaining their function.

Today, Noah is approaching his first birthday, hitting all the normal milestone, without any hint that he has suffered what otherwise would have been irreversible and potentially fatal brain damage.

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