TORONTO (AP) — A feeding tube running from her nose, 13-month-old Erika Nordby babbled and played with a microphone Friday as her mother said the toddler may not lose any fingers or toes, despite being frozen and having her heart stop for two hours.
Leyla Nordby wept and thanked all who helped her daughter make what doctors call a miraculous recovery since she was found lying face down in the snow, clad only in a diaper, after wandering into the frigid night.
Erika sat on her mother's lap during a news conference in Edmonton, Alberta, wearing a pink and white dress with a pink heart in front. She behaved like any other 1-year-old, pulling tissues out of a box, chewing on a doll and trying to wriggle out of her mother's arms.
Despite fears of brain damage, problems with internal organs and severe frostbite, Erika has made an almost complete recovery.
"What an incredible journey we've all been on," Nordby said, reading from a prepared statement. "At this point in time, Erika will require some rehabilitation, and there's a good chance she'll keep all her fingers and toes."
She thanked the emergency response workers, doctors and people from across Canada, the United States and elsewhere who have sent cards and gifts.
"Erika's room is overflowing with gifts and well wishes," Nordby said. "Your response has touched our hearts."
She broke into tears twice during questioning by journalists, but retained her composure enough to continue speaking.
"It's the best feeling because at first I thought of her maybe having to lose a toe or two, learning to walk and learning everything all over again," Nordby said. "People (were) telling me she might have a limp. It's getting positive."
Since news of the case emerged, Canadian media have reported on the difficulties of Nordby's life — her first childbirth at age 13, the four fathers of her five children, one of whom died in infancy, and a custody battle with the father of her two sons.
Asked about her confidence in caring for Erika and her 2-year-old sister Elsie, Nordby responded defiantly: "I always have taken care of Erika and Elsie properly. I'm very confident about that."
She said a trust fund was being set up for Erika to provide for "better schooling, education ... just to give her a better chance."
Dr. Nadeem Mian, Erika's pediatrician, told the news conference that new tissue was growing on the child's left foot and there was no infection, so she might avoid amputation.
"There might have to be some surgical intervention," Mian said. "If not, then she should be going home shortly."
There was no evidence so far of brain damage or other problems, he said.
"As you can see, she's a very delightful child," he said as Erika reached for toys and tissues. "She's behaving like any 1-year-old, tearing everything apart."
Sometime in the night of Feb. 23, Erika wandered outside into subzero temperatures and ended up frozen in the snow. Her heart stopped and her body temperature plunged to about 60 degrees. It took paramedics and doctors two hours to get her heart going again, and another three hours for her temperature to approach normal.
The fact that Erika froze may have saved her. Children cool faster because they are small, and their metabolic rate also decreases more quickly, preserving oxygen in the cells. However, some body parts can become starved of oxygen during rewarming, causing heart, lungs or kidneys to malfunction.
None of that happened with Erika, prompting Mian to repeat what others have said in past weeks — "She is a miracle baby."