Twenty-six-year-old Justin Smith, who was literally frozen solid in a Pennsylvania snow bank overnight in below-zero temperatures, has made what appears to be a full recovery. He is one of a handful of people whose brain cells were preserved without da...
twenty-six-year-old, justin, smith, who, was, literally, frozen, solid, in, a, pennsylvania, snow, bank, overnight, in, below-zero, temperatures, has, made, what, appears, to, be, a, full, recovery, he, is, one, of, a, handful, of, people, whose, brain, cells, were, preserved, without, da
Twenty-six-year-old Justin Smith, who was literally frozen solid in a Pennsylvania snow bank overnight in below-zero temperatures, has made what appears to be a full recovery.
He is one of a handful of people whose brain cells were preserved without damage for hours without oxygen, due to exposure to cold temperatures.
Cooling stops brain damage. Doctors say the cold thrusts the brain cells into a hibernation stage, thus preventing their deterioration that usually occurs within three to six minutes of being deprived of oxygen, leading to brain damage.
Although Justin's accident happened last February, he, his family and his doctors at Lehigh Valley Hospital waited until this week to hold a news conference detailing Justin's story.
Don Smith, Justin's father, recalled waking-up and realizing his son had not returned home from a party the night before. He went looking for Justin and found him face-up on the side of the road.
"I put the car in park and I just ran to him and I started shaking his head. And I said, 'No, you can't leave me. You can't leave me!'"
He called 9-1-1.
"He was blue his face, he was lifeless. I checked for a pulse, I checked for a heartbeat, there was nothing," Don Smith told WNEP-TV.
Not long after arriving on the scene, paramedics pulled a sheet over Justin's face, assuming he was dead, and called the coroner. They also called emergency room Dr. Gerald Coleman advising him of Smith's condition.
They said, "All signs lead to, lead us to believe he's been dead for a considerable amount of time," according to a transcript.
However, Dr. Coleman advised the paramedics to perform CPR on Smith, despite the fact that his chest wall was frozen solid.
"You're not dead until you're warm and dead," Coleman said on the Lehigh Valley Health Network website, an apparent reference to the phenomenon whereby cold temperatures can preserve brain cells and other vital organs.
Responders followed the doctor's orders...and continued chest compressions on Smith for an astounding two hours - astounding because performing CPR is exhausting. Most people get tired after just a few minutes. Ordinarily hospitals give-up on CPR after 20 minutes, assuming it's too late to save the patient.
But Dr. Coleman refused to accept defeat. He ordered CPR to be continued on Smith en route to a larger hospital that had a ECMO machine, which warms and providides oxygen to the blood. ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
After being hooked-up to the ECMO machine, Justin eventually resumed normal heart function. Twelve days later, he opened his eyes and resumed brain function.
He's now enrolled at Penn State, majoring in psychology.
Some patients recover from similar ordeals even faster than Justin did. Two years ago, after nearly freezing to death, a Polish toddler's normal brain function resumed after just a couple of days. The youngster wandered outside his home in below-zero weather wearing only his pajamas. When he was found near a creek his body temperature was 57 degrees.Normal body temperature is 98 degrees.
Likewise, a Scandanavian woman, whose body temperature was 56 degrees, recovered from hypothermia relatively unscathed.
Hypothermia victims aren't the only ones whose brain cells remain intact after being deprived of oxygen for long periods of time. Sometimes forced cooling can be administered to people with a normal body temperature suffering from other medical conditions, such as heart attacks.
In his book, Erasing Death, Dr. Sam Parnia says cooling is the most revolutionary advancement in resuscitation medicine over the last 20 years. It functions like a braking mechanism on cell deterioration, enabling the process of death from happening.
Cooling stops brain damage because the heart and brain cells go into hibernation.
Parnia says cutting-edge, life-extending body cooling technology exists, but not all hospitals employ this latest, most effective medical treatment.
Parnia offers examples of survivors who have been resuscitated and who have survived without brain damage, including a New York City man who suffered a heart attack and was revived after 47 minutes.
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