Frozen toddler's recovery a 'miracle': doctors

After an anxious weekend spent watching her come back to life, doctors in Edmonton now think a 13-month-old girl found frozen outside does not have brain damage.

But they won't know for several weeks if severe frostbite will force them to amputate limbs. The child remains in serious but stable condition.

"I think to be fair I'm using the miracle word now," said Dr. Allan De Caen, a pediatric intensive care specialist at Edmonton's Stollery Children's Hospital.

"It's not as if she's not going to have things that have to be dealt with and problems down the road, but this is an outcome we were all praying for and I think we've got it," he told a news conference on Sunday.

Girl wandered outside

The child, whose name has not been released, slipped into the backyard alone wearing only a diaper sometime late Friday night or early Saturday morning. It was 20 C.

She ended up collapsing on the snow-covered lawn before being found by distraught family and friends.

The mother, who had been sleeping with the girl and a two-year-old sister in a bed at a friend's house, woke up and noticed the youngest child missing. It took about 45 minutes to find the toddler's body.

She was clinically dead, with no pulse and her toes frozen together. Her internal body temperature was 16 C, less than half of the body's normal level of 37 C.

Very few children have ever survived under those conditions, according to physicians.

Paramedics failed to revive her on the way to the hospital. It took a team of doctors and nurses about 90 minutes to get the child's heart beating again.

Saturday night, physicians said the girl was very lucky to be alive. But as her body slowly warmed, they were concerned about possible swelling around the brain. There was also worry over the risk of infection.

On Sunday, doctors said the girl was recovering remarkably well. She does not appear to have any permanent brain damage, and the odds of losing her legs to frostbite appear greatly reduced.

"Basically, the approach right now is one of wait and see," De Caen said. "There is no intervention that is required" right now. The girl is being given morphine to help cope with the pain.

She's in a hospital crib full of stuffed animals. Although her limbs are bandaged, the girl does not have tubes in her body.

"I think she is very much aware of what is happening around her," De Caen told reporters. "She's making eye contact. I think she's acting like a normal one-year-old."

Edmonton police have already said no charges will be laid in the case, which investigators described as a "tremendously sad accident."