A 2-year-old Polish boy was found face down and unconscious Sunday in sub-freezing temperatures, and was placed into a medically-induced coma to bring his core temperature back to normal.
The toddler was under the care of his grandmother in the village of Raclawice, just north of Krakow, and walked outside into the night, as the temperature dropped to 19 degrees. He was found wearing only socks and a pajama top, lying in a bed of leaves under a tree.
The boy, who authorities are calling “Adam,” was brought to a hospital with a body temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit, and his heart was beating once every few dozen seconds. He was placed into a coma, but has since been woken up, though remains on a respirator and is on medication.
Here is a small documentary on hypothermia:
While it is unclear if the boy suffered any permanent brain damage, he was been opening his eyes and moving his arms and legs. Dr. Janusz Skalski, a heart surgeon at the Krakow children’s hospital, commented, “The child is improving. We have no negative signs from him, but we will be sure that we have success when he starts to play with toys.”
If Adam makes a full recovery, he might set a world record for hypothermia – Hypothermia expert Dr. Tomasz Darocha remarked that until now, the most extreme case of recovery from hypothermia involved a Scandinavian woman whose body temperature had dropped to 56.6 degrees.
The boy’s father believes his son was likely sleepwalking, and the grandmother is presently hospitalized in a state of shock.
Interestingly, profound hypothermia causes paradoxical undressing, where a victim inexplicably begins to remove their clothing. Roughly 20 to 50 percent of hypothermia deaths are tied to paradoxical undressing, and search teams trained in mountain survival are instructed to expect the symptom.
Another symptom of extreme hypothermia is terminal burrowing, where a victim will seek out an enclosed space to “hide-and-die.” Research suggests that the effect of coldness on the brain stem triggers very primitive behavior, akin to that of a hibernating animal.