Society

Premature Baby Survives Five Months Living Inside Icebox

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A premature baby in India miraculously survived being kept in a Thermocol icebox from a fishmarket for five months.

Aruna Chauhan, 34, gave birth to her son, Mithilesh, in Mumbai in October. He was two months premature, weighing three pounds three ounces.

He was admitted to an Intensive Care Unit and his parents, Aruna and Ramesh, borrowed money from everyone they knew to afford the $130 daily fees.

When the money ran out, after 20 days, the baby was discharged.

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Government-run hospitals turned them away because they already had ICU waiting lists.

Then a doctor told the couple putting the baby in an icebox at home would be better for his health than doing nothing at all.

"One doctor told us that if we couldn’t afford to keep our baby in hospital we should try a Thermocol icebox with holes for ventilation and a 60-watt bulb to provide the right amount of warmth," Aruna said. "He advised it was better than nothing and might save our baby. My husband bought the box from a nearby fishmarket and cut holes in it."

They kept Mithilesh in the box and used an alarm to remember to remove him every two hours and monitor his body temperature.

"It was awful," she said. "We had no idea if it was the right thing to do but we had to try something. We were terrified if we did nothing he’d die but we were also aware that what we were doing wasn’t exactly safe either. It was a very distressing time."

After five months, a local hospital, Wadia Hospital for Children in Parel, saw their story in a newspaper and stepped forward to offer care for the infant free of charge.

"This is an extremely sorry condition that a baby has to be kept in a Thermocol ice box in an era of advanced medicine,” said Wadia’s Chief Executive Officer Dr. Minnie Bhodanawal. “It was a practical solution considering their circumstances but it could have been life threatening if the baby’s temperature had fallen out of control."

Bhodanawal said Mithilesh is still dangerously underweight and requires constant medical care.

"A premature baby needs 24 hour medical care,” she said. “We are making sure he recovers well and we are confident we’ll be sending the baby home in about three weeks."

Sources: New York Daily News, Mumbai Mirror