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When the brain suffers trauma, the whole body takes a hit. It goes into rebound mode - trying to warm itself up, often times too quickly which can damage organs. Amazingly when a child is cooled down and then gradualy warmed, the body and brain are preserved leading to better outcomes for kids. Thanks to community support, experts at the Alberta Children's Hospital have access to a Criticool Cooling System - this state-of-the-art equipment allows for a child to be cooled down or warmed up to the exact temperature they need.

"Cherish is gone!" Those are the words that will always cause Dana Hunt’s blood to run cold.

An active young couple, Dana and Terry have always taken advantage of their Radium, B.C. address and all of the outdoor activities that come with it including river rafting. But last year, a fun afternoon of floating down the river with family and friends turned into a nightmare when suddenly, two-year-old Cherish disappeared in the water.

Just minutes after setting off, the raft Dana was in with her children flipped over and suddenly, Cherish was nowhere to be seen. She had floated away. After several minutes, a friend spotted Cherish in the river, her lifejacket caught up on a tree branch the rapids rushing over her and her face half in the water. Where she was in the water was impossible for them to reach. Within an hour, an excruciating wait, rescue services were called, STARS had landed and paramedics were working to reach Cherish. By the time they freed her from the branch, she was no longer breathing.

Crews performed CPR on Cherish while they got her into the helicopter and flew her to hospital in Invermere where they tried, but failed to stabilize her. STARS then flew Cherish to Calgary where the Trauma team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital was waiting for her.

“She wasn’t breathing, as far as we knew she was gone. It was really terrifying,” said Dana.

But the team didn’t give up on her and continued to perform CPR on her for two hours until she finally began breathing on her own five minutes before they landed in Calgary.

When Dana and Terry arrived at the hospital, they found their little girl in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, surrounded by doctors and nurses.

Cherish was hypothermic from the cold river water, and the team continued to cool her with a special cooling blanket in the PICU so that they could very gradually warm her body in an attempt to reduce damage to her brain which she was sure to have sustained. She was put on a ventilator and in an induced coma so her body could rest and heal and so she couldn’t pull her breathing tube out. Cherish continued to be cooled for the first two days of her stay.

Because Cherish had gone without breathing on her own for so long, brain damage was a probability and PICU staff prepared the worried parents for the worst. Cherish was monitored closely and to everyone’s surprise and delight, an MRI showed that she had no damage in her brain. Her parents and her caregivers are thrilled at how well Cherish has recovered especially considering her circumstances. Dana says she attributes her daughter’s complete recovery to the fast thinking and expertise in the PICU.

“I couldn’t be more thankful. They honestly gave us a true miracle,” said Dana.

“They gave us Cherish back, 100%. They didn’t give up once on her. I can’t even express how thankful I am for this hospital and all the people who supported and helped Cherish. It was really heartwarming they were here to do that for us.”

Learn more about Life Saving Care at the Alberta Children's Hospital

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