Toddler Survived 18 Minutes Under Water
Published: February 11, 2009 | 7366th good news item since 2003
September 2008 the then 2 year old Oluchi Nwaubani fell into a swimming pool in London. At that time of year the water was freezing cold.
By the time she was rescued she had been under water for at least 18 minutes. Serious and extensive brain damage normally sets in after just 5 minutes without oxygen.
Paramedics were unable to start Oluchi breathing again. A medvac helicopter rushed her to the Royal London hospital where doctors gave her a 2% of surviving.
“For days we were thinking is she going to live or is she going to die.
Doctors were telling us she was never going to pull through.
They said that if she had not started breathing again in six hours she would probably not survive.
Six hours went by and when the doctors discussed turning off the machine we asked them to hold on.
Three days later my daughter suddenly started breathing again.
The doctors said she would never pass urine again because her kidney failed. But she is passing urine normally now.
They said she would not be able to talk anymore, she would not walk again – she would be a vegetable.
But she is walking, she is eating normally and she is able to say what she wants.
The doctors said that the amount of time she spent in the water meant she would never recover but when I asked her to say ‘hello’ to the doctor she tried to speak. And then I asked her to wave goodbye and she moved her hand.
Her doctor said he couldn’t believe what he had just witnessed. Staff were calling her a miracle baby.
She seems to have defied doctors at every stage.
It was hard to explain to her sisters that she was alive because they had seen her die at the pool.
It has been a difficult time for us but the support we received from friends and family has helped us make it through.”
— Junior Nwaubani, Oluchi’s father
Doctors now believe her survival was due to a combination of the diving reflex, which slows down the body’s metabolism and need for oxygen, and the very cold temperature of the water which would have protected the brain from more extensive damage.
“It was really almost a miracle that this child has a normal recovery.
Some young children, particularly babies, have a special reflex that they had when they were in utero called the diving reflex. It essentially slows the body’s metabolism down to almost nothing, so they almost need no oxygen for the brain cells to survive.”
— Dr. Vinay Nadkarni, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
To Toya, her mother, the details matter a lot less.
“She shouldn’t be here, but she is.
There’s still room for recovery. She’s still on a road to recovery.
I’ve said it’s not a miracle instantly, it’s a miracle over time.”
— Toya Nwaubani