In a Christmas Miracle, Little Brittany Eichelberger Is Pulled Back from the Brink of a Cold Death
updated 01/14/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 01/14/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST
The pain, though, is the pain of life flowing back into Brittany's limbs. Around daybreak on Dec. 24, the toddler somehow turned the button-lock knob on the front door of her mobile home in Elkins, W. Va., and walked out into a snowstorm. When her parents, Melinda Eichelberger, 20, a fast-food restaurant cashier, and Steve Robinson, 21, an unemployed sales clerk, awoke at 9:30 A.M. and began searching for their daughter, Brittany had probably been out in 20°F cold for some three hours, clad only in underwear and a T-shirt. They found the 40-lb. girl lying unconscious in-the snow two homes away from hers—her feet and fingers darkened from frostbite. Her body temperature had plunged to 74°F, she had stopped breathing, and she was in cardiac arrest. "I was hysterical," says Melinda. "I kept thinking, 'I've lost my baby.' "
A neighbor was the first to give Brittany CPR; the paramedics who arrived 10 minutes later inserted a tube down Brittany's throat and began feeding her drugs to revive her heart. "We couldn't give her injections," says nurse Brenda Dailey. "Have you taken a steak from the freezer? She was that stiff and hard." Hypothermia had put Brittany into a kind of suspended animation, and even after she arrived at Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins, two hours passed before doctors detected a pulse. After further treatment, she was moved to Pittsburgh, where she is expected to make a full recovery—and, even better, will probably have no memory of her third Christmas. "I just knew she would make it," says Steve. "She's always been a little fighter."