[cifnmedia] Revived California Girl Baffles Medical Experts

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2003 13:02:06 -0800 (PST)

Updated: 11-14-2003 03:31:20 PM

Revived California Girl Baffles Medical Experts 

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Associated Press 

FULLERTON, Calif. (AP) -- Detective Mike Kendrick began photographing the body 
of a little girl on an emergency room table for an investigation of a drowning. 

Then, through the lens, he saw her chest move. Just spasms, he thought. Then he 
saw it move again. And again. 

``Am I seeing things? Does she look like she's breathing?'' Kendrick asked his 

Less than an hour earlier, Kendrick had broken the news to the girl's mother 
that she had been pronounced dead by doctors. Minutes earlier, he stood by as 
the mother said goodbye to her daughter. 

But 20-month-old Mackayala Jespersen was indeed alive. On Friday, she was in 
serious condition at Children's Hospital of Orange County, where she was 
transferred after being revived. 

Her case has baffled hospital and emergency workers. They had struggled to 
revive her with CPR, breathing tubes, a heated blanket. How could they have 
missed the fact that the toddler was alive? 

The Medical Board of California has launched an inquiry into whether physician 
error played a role, although the state Department of Health Services already 
has found that Anaheim Memorial Hospital followed proper protocol. 

The girl's family declined to be interviewed by The Associated Press. 

On Friday, the girl was breathing without a ventilator but was not fully alert. 
She was moving her eyes and her body somewhat, hospital spokeswoman Denise 
Almazan said. Earlier in the week, one of the girl's doctors said brain scans 
showed no serious brain damage. 

Mackayala slipped out the back door of her family's home in Fullerton, about 30 
miles south of Los Angeles, on Nov. 7. A family member found the girl floating 
face-down in the 52-degree water of the swimming pool shortly after 9 a.m., 
according to police reports and emergency workers. 

The girl's mother, Melissa Jespersen, placed a frantic 911 call. Minutes later, 
two police officers arrived and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. 

``We did CPR for six or seven minutes. It seemed like a million years,'' said 
one of the officers, Steve Rubio. 

At one point, Mackayala spit up water, or perhaps it was forced from her lungs 
by the chest compressions. 

Paramedics arrived and took Mackayala by ambulance to the hospital. 

Kendrick and his partner, Detective Brent Rebert, were driving to the Jespersen 
home when they got word that Mackayala had been pronounced dead at 10:06 a.m. 

At the home, Kendrick took the mother into her daughter's bedroom, sat her on 
the bed and told her the news. She went limp, fell to the floor and curled into 
a fetal position. 

``The look on this mom's face was absolute horror and disbelief,'' he said. 

The two detectives put her in their car. ``All the way to the hospital, she 
kept saying, `This isn't true. God wouldn't take her at this age,''' Kendrick 

At Anaheim Memorial, the detectives escorted her into a room off the ER to say 
farewell to her daughter. A few minutes later, they began the routine of 
photographing the body and making notes. 

The heart monitor had a flat line. Her breathing tube had been disconnected. 
Her body was still wrapped in a heating blanket that had apparently been used 
to try to raise her body temperature. By all appearances, Mackayala was dead. 

Then, at 10:45 a.m. - 39 minutes after she had been pronounced dead - her chest 
appeared to spasm. At first, the detectives thought it was releasing gas - a 
natural process after death. But the spasms continued and became longer. 

``It looks like she's breathing,'' Kendrick told his partner. ``Go and get 

Rebert returned with a nurse, who put a stethoscope to the girl's chest. 
Doctors raced in. Machines were turned back on. Mackayala had a pulse. The two 
police officers shook their heads in disbelief. 

Kendrick had the job of telling Mackayala's mother that her daughter was alive. 
This time, she fell to her knees and thanked God. 

Three days later, Kendrick and another officer stopped by the hospital to visit 
Mackayala. ``We were a little bit worried about how they would react to us. But 
we couldn't stay away,'' he said. 

He got a hug from Mackayala's mother. 

``She asked if I would come back and visit Mackayala when she comes home,'' 
Kendrick said. ``I said sure.'' 


Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network

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