Canadian Toddler Survives Sub-zero Cold

ByABC News
March 2, 2001, 3:12 AM

E D M O N T O N, Alberta, March 2 -- She wasnt breathing, her heart wasnt beating and her mother said she was frozen stiff when she found her lying facedown in the snow.

On a frigid Canadian night, 13-month-old Erika wandered outdoors in nothing but a diaper and T-shirt. But despite the little girls exposure to subzero temperatures, plastic surgeon Dr. Gary Lobay says she almost certainly will walk again.

Erika had been sleeping in a bed with her mother and a 3-year-old sister at a family friends house. The 25-pound toddler apparently got out of bed without waking anyone, opened a back door that had been left unlatched, and walked out into the snowy, frigid night.

It wasnt until 3 a.m. that Erikas mother, Leyla Nordby, discovered her daughter. I just saw something lying in the snow. And I ran to the snow and I saw Erika on her belly. I picked her up. She was frozen. I ran in the house. I wrapped her in a blanket, Nordby said.

Incredibly, no one knows how long Erika was out in the biting cold. It could have been anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours. When paramedics arrived shortly before 4 a.m., much of Erikas tiny body especially her legs and even her mouth was frozen stiff. The emergency workers tried desperately to restore any sign of life.

Krista Rempel, the paramedic who carried Erika to the ambulance described the child as very pale, very cold to touch and her extremities were almost hard, like blocks of ice, from what I can remember. Very, very hard and rigid.

But Rempel had gone through this before. Seven years ago she helped rescue another freezing child a 2-year-old. Because of that experience, Rempel and her partner, Jason Visscher refused to give up on Erika. Even though the child was so cold they couldnt put a needle in her arm. We put a needle in the bone of the leg and put fluid and medication through the marrow of the bone.