Scientists believed that they have successfully treated a drowned and resuscitated toddler with a combination of oxygen therapies. Two-year-old toddler, Eden Carlson, from Arkansas, experienced brain damage from a drowning incident which occurred last year. The tragic incident has left her with no ability to speak or respond to voices. The only thing she uncontrollably did was shake her head and squirm around simultaneously.

Miracle case

The case itself is considered a miracle as the little girl could not be resuscitated for two hours after being in the water for 15 minutes. It was eventually at the Washington Regional Medical Centre whereby doctors managed to revive Eden. The toddler went on to receive critical care at the hospital for 48 days.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) was among the course of oxygen treatments administered for 45 minutes twice a day a nasal cannula by a team from LSU Health New Orleans and the University of North Dakota. Soon after the treatment started, doctors were able to reverse the brain damage that the toddler experienced.

From being in an extremely sensitive state to being able to slowly regain her ability to eat and even speak—Eden has managed to recover alertness and also reduced her squirming—which made her more ‘in control’ of her limb movements. Three weeks later, she started a round of new treatments in a hyperbaric chamber, located in New Orleans. In all, Eden has undergone 39 hyperbaric sessions and physical therapies to help her function much better.

Effect of the oxygen treatments

Speaking on how surprised they were at the effect of the oxygen treatments, hyperbaric specialist Paul Harch expressed, “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.” Harch was also the one who suggested treatment with oxygen therapies in an attempt to "wake up" Eden's damaged brain.

At the end of the treatment, MRI scans that were done further revealed the presence of a mild residual injury in Eden’s brain. Nevertheless, it was also discovered that her brain had a near-complete reversal of cortical and white matter atrophy. According to the team that handled her treatment, this kind of result has never been reported with any therapy—but, even they are clueless as to what exactly worked in Eden’s favour.

Reportedly, the normobaric and hyperbaric oxygen treatments have had very positive results in making Eden’s situation better, as together, it helps reducing inflammation and promote brain cell survival. Harch concluded by saying, “Although it's impossible to conclude from this single case if the sequential application of normobaric oxygen then HBOT would be more effective than HBOT alone; in the absence of HBOT therapy, short duration, repetitive normobaric oxygen therapy may be an option until HBOT is available.”

Not all in favour of the medical claim

Despite people being surprised with this new experiment and discovery, there are other professionals, who don’t believe that this treatment works. Offering his opinion to Live Science, Dr Ian Miller, a paediatric neurologist, expressed that he “… really worry that other people who read about this on the internet will think that this is a legitimate type of therapy for people with brain damage, when there is no proof of this.”

Dr Miller is not the only one questioning the validity of this report, as other experts too, are saying that this type of recovery could have happened without the use of these specific oxygen treatments. According to these experts, no evidence was provided that the brain cell death occurred or that the brain cells were resurrected by the oxygen treatment.

A professor and chairman of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, Dr David Cifu, agreed by saying that people are enable to recover after a near drowning experience, and the recovery of the brain function has nothing to do with hyperbaric oxygen. He continued, “This proves nothing. Recovery can happen because of the brain's plasticity, or flexibility, meaning that different brain areas can take over for those that have been damaged”

Experts feel that Eden’s survival had a lot to do with the temperature of water of the swimming pool. Since Eden fell in cold water, she had a better chance at recovering because cold water provides a protective effect on the brain. Regardless of criticisms, one thing the experts all agree on is that everyone should be grateful that little Eden has recovered wonderfully from this traumatising drowning incident. MIMS

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