A Toronto hospital is investigating how a newborn baby was declared dead after being born on a snow-covered sidewalk, only to be discovered alive more than 90 minutes later by an alert police officer while waiting for the coroner to pick up the body.
Police were overjoyed at the happy outcome of what first looked like a tragic incident early Sunday, but officials at Humber River Regional Hospital are reviewing the circumstances that saw the living child presumably headed for the autopsy table.
Hospital spokesman Gerard Power issued a statement saying it was “reviewing the events of yesterday with the appropriate agencies and that review is ongoing at this time," CTV News reported.
Power said the hospital could not release details of the incident because of privacy laws.
The strange chain of events began around 6 a.m. Sunday when a 20-year-old pregnant woman, a resident of Toronto's poor Jane and Finch neighbourhood, began feeling ill, the Toronto Star reported. She and her mother set off on foot for the hospital about half a kilometre away.
It was bitterly cold — -15C overnight — and the city had issued an extreme-cold alert. As the women walked along the sidewalk blocked in spots by snow drifts, the pregnant young woman went into labour, the Star said.
The baby arrived as the woman lay on the sidewalk. She called 911, which brought the police and paramedics who rushed mother and baby to the nearby hospital. Once there, ER staff tried to revive the newborn girl but she was pronounced dead and covered with a sheet, the Star said.
The police alerted the coroner's office, which asked the officers to stay with the body until the coroner arrived. About an hour and 45 minutes later, one of the officers noticed the sheet was moving. Looking closer, the officer felt for a pulse and found one.
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Medical staff rushed back, confirmed the baby was alive and worked quickly to stabilize the infant, CTV News said.
"There weren’t life-saving measures taken by the officers but it’s very important the officers were there and noticed some movement," Toronto police spokeswoman Const. Wendy Drummond told the Star.
Both the mother and new daughter remained in hospital in stable condition.
Drummond called it a "fantastic, fantastic outcome."
"Today two officers experienced something most likely never to happen again in their careers," Drummond said on the Toronto police Twitter feed. "Truly astonished/pleased baby is doing well."
Deputy Chief Peter Sloly was equally exuberant, the Star noted, tweeting praise for the officers who saved the baby's life.
Now it's up to the hospital to determine how this happened.