Strangers sometimes ask if they can touch 1-year-old Coltyn Hermanstorfer on the head or take his photo after he and his mother, Tracy, recovered from a near-death experience during childbirth last Christmas Eve.
"People feel that he is, like, somehow connected right directly with God," said Coltyn's father, Mike Hermanstorfer.
Mike Hermanstorfer isn't convinced of that — "We'll find that out later in life," he said — but he has no doubt it was a miracle, and he understands if others want to get as close to it as they can.
"I'm not going to deny anybody," he said.
Tracy Hermanstorfer, now 34, went into cardiac arrest while preparing to give birth at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs on Dec. 24. Doctors quickly delivered Coltyn by emergency Cesarean section, but he appeared lifeless, Mike Hermanstorfer said.
Hermanstorfer was at his wife's side when her heart stopped beating. He thought he had lost both her and their newborn son. But doctors revived Coltyn in his father's arms. And then a nurse told Hermanstorfer his wife's pulse had inexplicably returned and that she would probably survive.
She was without a pulse for about four minutes, her doctor said.
Mother and child are healthy, with no apparent after effects and no medical explanation for what happened.
"That's why I mark this up as a miracle," said Hermanstorfer, 38. "There's no other explanation anywhere from anybody that can explain anything different to me."
Coltyn squirmed, pushed and babbled happily as his parents and two brothers watched during a recent interview.
"He's developing and at the right level he's supposed to," Tracy Hermanstorfer said in a quiet, happy voice. "I've done a couple tests and I come out just perfectly healthy. We still haven't figured it out, how it happened and why it happened."
Stephanie Martin, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Memorial Hospital, said she referred Tracy Hermanstorfer to specialists who explored various theories but came up empty.
"We don't have a medical explanation for what happened," she said. "We have theories but nothing we can prove."
Those theories included an overactive component of the nervous system and a reaction to an anesthetic, but neither held up.
Mike Hermanstorfer still seems rattled by the experience.
"I witnessed my wife die in front of my face. I witnessed my child — I don't really want to say dead, because you've got to live first. But he wasn't breathing," Hermanstorfer said.
Hermanstorfer said he suffers nightmares and frequently awakens at night to make sure his wife and baby are still there.
"With Tracy already going into cardiac arrest ... you never know if it's going to happen again," he said.
The Hermanstorfers have hit hard times since Coltyn was born. Mike Hermanstorfer said he lost his job with a towing company because he missed so much work looking after his wife and baby. The family was evicted from their home when they fell behind on the rent and had to move in with Tracy's mother.
Hermanstorfer said he also fell behind on alimony payments to an ex-wife and spent time in jail because of it.
The couple said they have no health insurance.
"We're having trouble finding the tunnel, let alone the light at the end of it," Mike Hermanstorfer said.
The couple said they have found comfort in family, which they say has drawn closer since Coltyn's birth.
Their 4-year-old son, Kanyen, has become Coltyn's "big brother-protector." Twelve-year-old Austin, Tracy Hermanstorfer's son from a previous marriage, has buckled down at school.
The only sign that either older brother felt left out amid the fuss about Coltyn was when producers for "Oprah" didn't invite them to accompany their parents and baby brother to Chicago in February to tape a segment for the show.
A spokeswoman for the show said she did not know when it might be broadcast.
Austin was upset by that, Tracy Hermanstorfer said.
"He was like, 'OK, we're part of this family.' And I think we're learning that with a lot of people now. We point out to them that we're a family of five, not three."
- Memorial Hospital
- cardiac arrest
- emergency Cesarean section
- maternal fetal medicine specialist
- near-death experience
- Colorado Springs