Mother dies of ‘probable drowning, hypothermia,’ doctors weigh in


ANNA, Ohio (WDTN) – A preliminary autopsy reveals that the cause of death for an Anna mother was “probable drowning and hypothermia,” according to Shelby County Coroner David McDonald, M.D.

Maurissa Bickford, 39, died after she attempted to save her son Noah, 3, from drowning in a rotting ice pond in their backyard.

Nearby county engineers saw the boy struggling and they jumped in to help the woman and toddler; they later called 9-1-1 and a rescue effort began.

The child was taken out of the water before authorities arrived, but the mother was stuck and first responders quickly moved to get her out of the rotting ice.

Sadly, Bickford and her son both died, after she was transported to Wilson Memorial Hospital, and he later careflighted to Dayton Children’s Hospital.

2 NEWS reached out the hospital to learn more about the effects of hypothermia on the human body.

“Your ability to breathe, irregular heartbeats, and some of those irregular heartbeat can be fatal, all begin to occur once the body temp– core body temperature drops below,” Dr. Frederick Simpson explained.

Simpson is the chief medical officer for the hospital; he’s practiced for nearly 2 decades and has come across several hypothermia cases.

He says each of the effects he described can happen when someone falls into a frozen body of water and gets hypothermia.

Which is why Dr. Simpson calls hypothermia a real threat; every year, more than 700 people die from being in this state.

With icy waters, some frozen, others melting, the dangers of falling into frozen ice or ponds are high.

And often times when the body is exposed to these types of frigid ice waters just minutes can lead to crippling side effects, even death as was the case Thursday.

For some age groups, like that of 3-year-old Noah Bickford, hypothermia is even more risky to their bodies.

“A frail elderly person is going to experience those effects much more quickly; a small child is going to experience those effects much more quickly,” Simpson said. “It also of course depends on the temperature difference between the person and the water so the cooler the water, the more quickly those effects are going to set in.”

Because of the fast-acting effects of hypothermia, doctors say the victim must quickly be dried.

Dr Simpson says doing that can “slow down the loss of– body temperature loss.”

But even warming the body sometimes is not enough.

It is why doctors advise that people, especially those most at risk, avoid activity when frozen water is unsupervised by authorities.

Joined with officials at the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, doctors also want to warn people against trying to rescue someone from a frozen body of water.

There are serious dangers with that type of act, and so they urge you to call 9-1-1 and let the authorities handle the rescue.

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