A MOTHER has told how her two-year-old son has made an amazing recovery after his heart stopped beating for 39 minutes.
Trudy Hilary performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on little Zach for 10 minutes after he collapsed at their York home.
Paramedics continued efforts to revive him before a desperate final bid by hospital staff to start his heart again was finally successful.
Doctors warned his devastated parents his outlook was bleak.
His mother said: “I know it was a long time but it felt like an absolute lifetime waiting to find out if he would live or die.
“The doctors told me that the prognosis wasn’t good, that his heart had stopped beating for 39 minutes and to prepare myself for the worst. It was just devastating.”
Nine days later he was taken off a ventilator but scans revealed he had suffered damage in the part of the brain which controls motor skills, leaving his speech and movement affected.
At first he did not recognise anyone but gradually recovered to leave hospital just a month later. Now he is almost back to his old self at home with father IT consultant Dave, 37, and brothers Jake, five, and six-month-old Scott.
Mrs Hilary, 40, said he had to re-learn all his skills.
“It has been amazing to watch him recover. It has been like watching a newborn in fast motion,” she said.
“He’s had to learn to eat, hold a cup, walk and talk all over again, all in the past few months.
“I asked the doctors if this was the outcome they expected and they told me: ‘No, it’s a miracle’.”
The youngster collapsed in January when she left him watching TV on the sofa, only to return seconds later to find him lying on the floor groaning.
She thought he was joking about but realised he had turned grey. She initially feared he had choked on a piece of Lego.
She said: “I rang 999 but I was so panicky that the operator had to tell me to calm down because she couldn’t understand what I was saying.
“It’s just a parent’s worst nightmare.
“While I was on the phone, Zach stopped breathing. They talked me through mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions, which I did for about 10 minutes.
“They paramedics arrived and continued CPR for about five minutes in the house, then took him into the ambulance and were shocking him.”
Ten minutes later he arrived at York Hospital.
“It was surreal. The doctors rushed Zach into an emergency room and began working on him,” she said.
“They gave him adrenaline shocks three times and finally his heart started beating again.
“But the consultant said to me he wasn’t sure Zach would survive. He told me, ‘His heart hasn’t been beating for 39 minutes, that’s a long time.’”
Zach was moved to Leeds General Infirmary where he was put in an induced coma in intensive care as doctors tried to reduce the swelling on his brain.
She said: “I remember looking at his notes and seeing the words ‘Prognosis poor. Prepare family for the worst’. It was horrific.”
Nine days later, doctors took Zach off the ventilator but an MRI scan revealed his brain had been damaged, affecting his speech and movement, and he was unable to recognise anyone.
“It was like looking at a shell of my little boy,” she said.
“But he had physiotherapy and speech therapy and one day about two-and-a-half weeks after he had been taken off the ventilator, he looked at me and I knew he recognised me and he went, ‘M’, like he was trying to say ‘Mama’.
“It was brilliant, it felt like such a breakthrough.”
Just over a month after his collapse, he was able to go home. His mother said he had now returned to nursery, loved playing on a trampoline and was even back to fighting with his brother again.
“It’s lovely having our little Zach back,” she added.
But the reason the heart stopped remains a mystery.
She said: “They discussed the possibility of it being a sudden death syndrome. In fact, when the footballer Fabrice Muamba fell ill I mentioned it to Zach’s doctors, who told me that it could be the same thing.
“But even if we found that was the reason, we can’t fit a defibrillator because Zach’s too little. The doctors told me that I saved his life by performing the CPR, as the first minute after the heart stops beating is the most crucial. I’ve been on a resuscitation course since to make sure if it does happen again, I’ll know what to do.”