When doctors discovered that Claire Ives’ unborn son’s heart was beating 300 times per minute — nearly double the normal 160 beats per minute — they decided to deliver the boy five weeks early in order to save his life.
Edward Ives was born via an emergency cesarean at the University College London Hospital, and doctors immediately got to work. The infant suffered from a condition called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), and was only given a five percent chance of survival.
The life-threatening condition is caused by improper electrical impulses in the heart. When the heart fails to beat regularly or too quickly, vital organs are unable to get the proper amount of blood to operate correctly. As soon as Edward was born, the doctors tried to get his heart rate under control.
"We'd gone through all the usual maneuvers that usually work in babies, giving drugs … trying to shock the heart, the baby and get [a healthy heart rate back]," said Dr. Nicola Robertson, who works in the neonatal unit at the University College London Hospital.
"I just thought he was going to die," Ives told ABCNews.com.
When the shocking and medication did not work, doctors decided to try an approach none had ever used for an SVT patient — they would freeze Edward, which meant lowering his body temperature to slow his heart down and preserve his vital organs.
After cooling down Edward’s body temperature to 91 degrees for a few hours and heating him up again, Edward’s intense heart rate persisted. The doctors tried the technique again, but with both cooling blankets and medication. This time, they slowly raised his body temperature by half of a degree every 12 hours.
Luckily, Edward’s heart rate remained stable for the next month, when his parents were finally able to take him home.
Edward, now six months old, has been healthy ever since thanks to the doctors’ creativity to treat the rare condition.