After Kristal Carlson lost sight of her two-year-old daughter Eden, she found herself faced with a mother’s worst nightmare: her young child was floating face down in the swimming pool. And even after doctors revived Eden, it seemed unlikely that the toddler would ever recover sufficiently to be able to live a normal life. However, a medical miracle would end up changing everything.
On February 29, 2016, Kristal and her husband Chris were living in Fayetteville, a city in central Arkansas. The couple had five children, with toddler Eden being the youngest. Furthermore, both Kristal and Chris were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as the Mormon Church, and were bringing their children up to share their faith.
At the time, their eldest daughter India was a student at the University of Arkansas, while 18-year-old August was preparing for a two-year mission in Africa. The couple also had two more teenage sons, making little Eden by far the baby of the family.
And according to Kristal, Eden was an adventurous spirit, with a love of running and climbing. “She was so spunky,” Kristal told the Daily Mail in July 2017. “She was our little wild child… She was so active.” Sadly, though, tragedy was about to strike both the little girl and her family.
On that fateful day in February 2016, Eden was playing with her mom and siblings while Chris, who is employed as a salesman, was at work. But when Kristal returned from taking a shower, the toddler was nowhere to be seen. Somehow, Eden had found her way through both a child gate and another door to reach the dangerous pool. And by the time Kristal found her, Eden was floating face down in the water.
Apparently, Eden’s siblings had thought that the toddler was with her mother, and so they didn’t know how long she had been missing. Kristal, meanwhile, couldn’t be sure herself as to exactly how much time Eden had spent in the water. However, she knew that it had been at least five minutes – and it could have been as long as 15.
And, alarmingly, Eden had stopped breathing by the time that she was pulled out of the water. So while Kristal administered CPR, India dialed 911. Ten minutes later, paramedics were on the scene, trying to revive Eden as they whisked her to the emergency room.
Then, for more than an hour and a half, the Carlsons waited anxiously for any news of Eden. Finally, a surgeon came over to tell them that the toddler had been revived – but, sadly, it wasn’t all good news. Although doctors had managed to get Eden’s heart beating again, she had been left with severe damage to her brain.
Soon, Eden was transferred by air to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, a three-hour drive from the Carlsons’ home. But despite the distance, the family never left the little girl’s side, taking it in turns to sleep next to her hospital bed.
For five weeks, in fact, the Carlsons kept their heartbreaking vigil near to little Eden. “It was completely devastating,” Kristal told the Daily Mail. “It was our absolute worst nightmare come true. She couldn’t do anything. She couldn’t focus her eyes. She had a feeding tube.”
But despite Eden’s condition, her family was determined not to give up hope. Instead, they began researching potential treatments online. And, eventually, they discovered hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) – along with Louisiana State University professor Dr. Paul Harch, a specialist in the procedure.
HBOT involves placing patients in a pressurized tank and pumping in pure oxygen for them to breathe. Because the air pressure inside the chamber is greater than under normal conditions, the lungs are therefore able to absorb far more oxygen.
As far back as 1937, HBOT has been used to treat decompression sickness – a condition sometimes suffered by scuba divers who ascend to the surface too quickly. Some physicians, moreover, have long suspected that the therapy could have far wider medical applications.
By the time that Eden had been discharged, however, her prognosis looked bleak. Apparently, doctors had told the Carlsons that their daughter would not recover and would perhaps spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state. They even gave them an oxygen tank to take home with them, in case Eden stopped breathing.
Perhaps desperate to hear some more hopeful news, the Carlsons then contacted Dr. Harch. He advised them to use the tank they had been given to dose their daughter with pure oxygen two times a day, as he was convinced that HBOT could help Eden. And after three weeks of carrying out Dr. Harch’s treatment at home, the family was able to fly to New Orleans to finally meet him in person.
According to Dr. Harch, moreover, the positive effects of the therapy were immediate. And, indeed, after 40 sessions of HBOT – at a cost of $200 a time – Eden seems to have made a remarkable recovery. In fact, according to Kristal, her little girl is “almost 100 percent the same as before.”
Furthermore, Dr. Harch has claimed that Eden’s MRI scans do indeed prove that she has recovered to a startling extent. “They did an MRI and her brain looked completely normal,” he told the Daily Mail. “Unequivocally, she had regrown substantial brain tissue.” And today, Eden seems to be defying doctors’ expectations, learning to walk and developing her speech to a level beyond what she was capable of before the accident.
However, not everyone is convinced that HBOT is the revolutionary treatment that it might appear to be. The technique is not currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for anything other than decompression sickness, for instance. What’s more, some professionals have cast doubt on its effectiveness in treating brain injury.
Indeed, University College London’s Dr. Oliver Sykes, who uses the therapy to treat divers, called Dr. Harsch’s claims “far-fetched” in a July 2017 interview with British newspaper The Independent. “I can’t think of a reason why what has been reported would have happened,” he commented, “and I’d be very surprised if this was a repeatable result.”
But for the Carlsons, the therapy has been nothing short of a miracle giving their beloved daughter another chance at life. “We hope our story inspires parents to never give up hope,” Kristal told People in July 2017, “even if doctors are telling you no. Keep fighting for your kid.”