How did Helena White survive the accident? - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

How did Helena White survive the accident?

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) -

"I'm feeling good." Helena told her mother.

Four-year-old Helena White is in good condition at University Medical Center . She's come a long way from where she was just last week. She was submerged under water for minutes after a car accident with her mother.

"There have been reports of young children who actually survived after being under water for almost an hour but this is very freezing very cold water." said Dr. Robert Hester, Professor of Physiology at UMMC.

Dr. Hester says this is possible because of the diving reflex, the body's natural response to submersion in cold water. 

"When they are put in a cold environment, particularly water. they cool down very rapidly and what happens is their body decreases blood flow to those non essential tissues such as muscle in the kidney and the liver," said Dr. Hester. "And it really slows the heart down so it only has blood flow to your heart and to the brain so therefore there's still enough oxygen in the body to be delivered to those particular organs."

Dr. Hester, who has not treated Helena, says this can allow children to survive without oxygen for a long time. 

"I think all these cases are pretty amazing and it shows us how well the body does to try to protect ourselves in extreme environments," added Dr. Hester. 

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