IN WHAT doctors are calling an extraordinarily rare case of survival, a 22-month-old Pennsylvania boy whose lifeless body was pulled from an icy creek was revived after an hour and 41 minutes of CPR, and has suffered virtually no lingering effects.
Gardell Martin came home from the hospital on Sunday, and his doctors said yesterday he has made a full recovery.
"It's not only extraordinarily rare that we got the kid back, but what's even more extraordinary is the rate at which he recovered and the completeness of his recovery," said Dr. Frank Maffei, director of the pediatric intensive care unit at Geisinger's Janet Weis Children's Hospital in Danville, Pa. "The stars and moon aligned, and he had an angel on his shoulder."
Gardell and two of his brothers had gone outside to play on March 11 when, at some point, he fell into the stream that runs through their five-acre property near Mifflinburg and was swept away by the fast-moving current.
His brother, Greg, 7, ran into the house and screamed that he couldn't find Gardell.
Their mother, Rose Martin, did a quick search of the property before realizing her young son had likely fallen into the creek, which was swollen because of melting snow. She called 9-1-1 while her two teenage daughters began walking downstream in a frantic search for the toddler.
It was a neighbor who found Gardell nearly a quarter-mile away, caught up in a tree branch, the water gushing around his body.
An ambulance crew arrived moments later, found no pulse and began CPR. Resuscitation would continue, unbroken, for 101 minutes - in the ambulance, at a community hospital, aboard a medical helicopter and, finally, in the emergency room of Janet Weis, the pediatric wing of Geisinger Medical Center, where a team of some 30 doctors and nurses sprang into action.
Gardell's body temperature was 77 degrees when he arrived, more than 20 degrees below normal. In this case, the boy's profound hypothermia worked to his advantage, dramatically slowing his metabolism and giving his organs "some degree of protection from cardiac arrest," Maffei said.
Knowing that, Maffei ordered CPR to continue while the team slowly warmed his body. At around 82 degrees, they detected a pulse.
Against all odds, his heart had restarted.
Hours later, Gardell regained consciousness - and his brain function was normal, stunning doctors yet again.
"It was an act of God," said his grateful mother, Rose Martin. "There is no doubt in my mind it's a miracle. God had the right people in the right place at the right time and they all did a wonderful job."