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Baby Frozen After Surgery Complications Makes Miracle Recovery

BBC News via YellowBrix

June 17, 2010

A baby who suffered complications following an intricate heart operation made a miraculous recovery after he was FROZEN for four days. Medics were astounded when 16-week-old Finley Burton pulled through after he was put on an external pacemaker and frozen to stop any shivering disturbing the device.

They made the unusual decision to lower his body temperature to just 33.4C as his heart went into junctional ectopic tachycardia; a severe type of heart rhythm; after the operation to repair a large hole in his heart.

Mum Donna Link-Emery, 27, said: "It was very frightening. We thought we were going to lose him.

“His heart was beating really quickly and we prayed he would survive.

“Amazingly the freezing process seemed to work and after four days his heart started to maintain a normal rhythm again.”

Donna and partner Aaron Burton, 31, had taken Finley to the doctor when he was just ten-weeks-old because he was not putting on much weight and had breathing difficulties.

The tiny tot was referred to the University Hospital of North Durham.

Donna said: “I had a normal pregnancy and nothing was picked up on any of my scans so I was expecting it to be a routine visit.”

But the consultant listened to Finley’s heart and thought he could hear a murmur so sent him for an echo cardiogram, an ECG and an X-ray.

They discovered the youngster had a large hole at the top of his heart and a small one at the bottom.

The next day Finley was transferred to Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, where they also found he had an aortic coarctation — a narrowing of the heart’s main artery.

He was given emergency surgery the following day.

Finley had two operations to block the larger hole and correct the artery, but when he came round, there were complications.

His heart went into junctional ectopic tachycardia (JET), a very rapid heart rhythm which can be fatal.

Doctors lowered Finley’s temperature to try to stabilise his heart rate then fitted an external pacemaker and had to paralyse him so he would not disturb the machine.

Donna said: "They put him in a little bag which allowed air to flow around his body and he was kept like that for four days.

“It was all so sudden and upsetting. Nothing at all prepares you for seeing your baby in hospital like that. I just cried.

“Then he was gradually weaned out of his paralysis and his temperature was brought back to normal as his heart started to beat properly again.”

Medics were astounded the little tot had survived.

After 12 days in hospital Finley was allowed to go home and is now recovering well, with check-ups every eight weeks.

Donna added: "We were told he may have to be in hospital for six weeks so we were stunned when they said he could leave so quickly.

“Now he’s doing really well and has already put on lots of weight.”

A spokesman for Freeman’s Hospital said: “The cooling process helps to slow down the body’s metabolic rate and protect all the big organs such as the brain.”

Finley’s family are now raising money for Freeman Hospital’s Children’s Heart United Fund.

Anyone wishing to donate to the fund can visit