Total Body Cooling Helps Girl Not Breathing at Birth

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  It's a scary feeling when your baby is born not breathing. For one family, it meant watching their newborn undergo something called total body cooling.

Violet Peekenschneider is about to turn two. Her dad Brad said, “She's funny. She's very smart."

You'd never know how scary her birth was on New Year's Day 2016.

"She was born not breathing and she had a low heart rate, so she was considered an emergency situation," said mom Marcy Peekenschneider.

Soon after she was born, doctors decided to start something called total body cooling.

Dr. Alanna Rice said, "The total body cooling is a way to help infants who have had injury at birth, brain injury, have not gotten enough oxygen to treat that and help them from sustaining further injury."

The babies are placed on a special blanket that cools their body to 92 degrees Fahrenheit for three days. Total body cooling needs to start within six hours of birth.

"The cooling is to slow everything down. Give the brain time to heal without causing more damage," said Dr. Rice.

Ninety babies at Blank Children's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit have used this since the hospital started offering it 10 years ago.

"The neonatology community is still trying to figure out for everyone, but the outcomes are better. Fewer kids who have cooling go on to have long term disability than kids who didn't get cooled," said Dr. Rice.

Violet's parents are thankful for it.

"Neurologically she is fantastic. No developmental issues, no intellectual delays or disabilities. The cooling definitely did its job, did what it was supposed to do, and it's amazing," said Marcy.

Total body cooling is performed on adults and older children, too.