A newborn in San Diego is home at last after spending the first three days of his life undergoing a unique but life-saving treatment at a local hospital.
Baby Leo is now a healthy baby boy whose family is looking forward to spending their first Christmas with him.
But just 8 days ago, Leo was in danger of sustaining lifelong brain damage. During labor, his placenta separated early, depriving him of oxygen. He was delivered without a heartbeat.
"There was just no sound. Nothing," said Leo's mother, Annie Keeling. "I could tell instantly just by the mood something wasn't right and didn't hear any crying."
The silence lasted 12 minutes.
He was taken to the Neurological Intensive Care Unit at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital once his heart started beating. The lack of oxygen left Leo with an 80 percent risk of having severe neurological impairment or death, doctors said.
"The last I remember hearing was '12 minutes - no heartbeat'," said Keeling, who planned on delivering baby Leo at a birthing center, but was taken to Mary Birch when she began showing signs of a low-grade fever.
Doctors placed him under a cooling blanket. The treatment in the unit’s relatively new nursery slowed down any neurological damage that might have happened due to the lack of oxygen.
Doctors and specialized equipment monitored his brain activity for evidence of injury or seizure in his three days under the cooling blanket.
"We were always expecting bad news to come, and it was just a huge relief to know he was a normal baby," Keeling said.
There is now no evidence of brain injury, and doctors anticipate Leo will be fine.
His parents took him home Wednesday to meet his big brother and big sister.
"We're feeling very very blessed," Keeling said outside the hospital Wednesday.