Air Canada Foundation Makes Critical Care a Little Cooler for our Regions’ Babies

Max in the Children's NICUExpectant mom Emily Gibbons enjoyed a healthy, complication-free pregnancy. In July 2013, she looked forward to giving birth to a happy, healthy baby boy. After a full day of fruitless labour, Emily’s care team at Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre began to offer their exhausted patient different strategies to encourage the safe delivery of her son. All of a sudden, Emily’s overloaded system caused her uterus to clamp down on Max, causing his heart rate to drop significantly. To save the life of her son, Emily was put under general anaesthesia and the team performed a specialized caesarean section.

“All I remember is waking up and asking, ‘Where is Max? Where is my baby?’” Emily recalls. The new mom was flabbergasted when her care team responded that Max was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), but he had a heartbeat and was breathing. Later, Emily would discover that Max arrived without so much as a flicker of life. It took their care team nine minutes to encourage any signs of resuscitation, and a full 14 minutes for him to respond fully to treatment.

Emily’s caregivers wheeled her into the NICU so she could see her little boy for the first time. He lay on a paediatric cooling bed, which is designed to slow down brain activity and prevent further damage to a struggling infant’s organs.

Max, two years oldForty-eight hours after Max’s turbulent journey into the world, his care team issued an MRI to gauge the level of damage that oxygen deprivation had done to his brain. The MRI showed that one small portion of his brain was affected, but the care team was not overly concerned and insisted young brains are extremely effective at regenerating themselves. On day 14, Max’s MRI came back great, and his attending physician shared with Emily that it was thanks to the cooling blanket, which Max remained on for 72 hours, that Max’s short- and long-term outcomes were so positive. The fast-acting NICU team and this specialized piece of equipment saved Max’s life and his brain function.

“All I know about the cooling blankets is that if Max didn’t have one, he wouldn’t be who he is right now. It was the most important part of his care,” shares Max’s grateful mom. “It saved you, eh buddy?” she asks her bubbly little boy. “Hooorraayyy!” Max responds, and it is hard to believe that such a bright, enthusiastic boy had to overcome so much to arrive safely at home with his loved ones.

“Max had a slow start, but since then he has just taken off and never slowed down,” Emily explains. On behalf of all of the families, like the Gibbons, whose children will significantly benefit from our NICU’s cooling blankets, we would like to sincerely thank the Air Canada Foundation. Your generosity is making a world of difference for fragile babies who are cared for at our hospital and all of the family members who love and support them. Thank you for creating brighter futures for kids like Max.