The warmth of her mother’s first embrace lasted only a few seconds for Ella Claxton.
When midwives realised the newborn was close to death, it was decided that only a dramatic reduction in temperature could save her.
A faint heartbeat was detected after doctors fought to revive her for 25 minutes, but there were fears that the baby’s brain had been starved of oxygen for too long.
Doctors employed a new technique which induces a state of hypothermia and, crucially, reduces the risk of brain damage.
Thanks to that treatment, today at nine months old, Ella is happy, healthy and enjoying as many of her mummy’s cuddles as she likes.
The drama began moments after Rachel Claxton, 32, and her partner Jason Anderson, 33, marvelled at the arrival of their new daughter.
But despite a seemingly uncomplicated birth, Rachel’s placenta had ruptured during the labour, restricting the baby’s oxygen and blood supply. ‘I’d held her for no more than two seconds when the midwife told Jason to pull the emergency cord,’ Miss Claxton said.
‘All of a sudden there were doctors everywhere.
‘The midwife was crying, Jason was crying and no one could tell me what was going on.
‘I begged them to tell me what was happening, but I already knew she was dead because it had been so long and I still hadn’t heard her cry. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, I heard someone say: “She’s with us”. I couldn’t believe it.’
Three hours later, the couple went to see Ella in intensive care where they were given more devastating news.
It was thought the little girl had suffered hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy – brain damage caused by lack of oxygen and lack of blood supply.
‘The doctors told us to prepare for the worst and that they didn’t think she would make it through the night.
‘They said that even if she did survive, she would have serious brain damage and might not be able to walk or talk. But we didn’t care as long as our baby was alive. That was all that mattered to us.’
It was decided to take Ella 30 miles from Peterborough District Hospital to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, where a new freezing treatment was used to reduce the damage to her brain.
A cooling blanket took her core temperature down from around 37c to 33.5c, reducing the swelling around her brain.
After 72 hours, Ella’s temperature was slowly raised by half a degree at a time until it was back to normal.
Then at 11 days old, she was finally allowed to go home with her parents.
Since then, she has progressed well. She still needs some physiotherapy, but scans have shown no brain abnormalities.
Miss Claxton, who is campaigning to have the treatment more widely available, said: ‘In the hospital, I couldn’t wait to hold her for the first time and give her a warming hug. We still can’t be sure of the future or what problems she might face, but so far she’s gone from strength to strength.
‘She’s our little miracle and every day she gives us new hope.’
To find out more about the appeal, visit www.therosiecampaign.org.uk.