Man Brought Back to Life/New Procedure Saves Him After Cardiac Arrest
March 20, 2008
Man brought back to life
New procedure saves him after cardiac arrest
By Megan Quinn write the author
March 13, 2008
When Art Jensen woke up in the hospital, he had no idea what he had been through just two days earlier.
Art Jensen's heart stopped beating in his home Feb. 8. His son, Arthur, heard his father take one big breath, and he noticed that his father didn't exhale. After Art Jensen's face turned purple and his lips took on a blue tone, Arthur dialed 911. "I just knew," Arthur said. "It's like finding artifacts, you just know."
The Arvada resident, 61, suddenly felt sick while he was installing a garage door at work with his son Feb. 8. He doesn't remember the drive home or lying down on the couch for a nap. And Jensen definitely can't remember the major heart attack that should have killed him.
Even though the traumatic moments have slipped his mind, he's still alive to make new memories thanks to a new emergency procedure he underwent at Exempla Lutheran Medical Center. By cooling Jensen's body temperature down with special body pads, doctors were able to protect his brain from damage and ultimately save him from a medical condition only one in six people wake up from.
"I still don't know what to think," Jensen said as he settled into his couch on a recent day just a month after his hospital stay. "I'm certain you can die pretty easily, that you're not invincible."
The cooing of Jensen's pet dove drifted through his living room. Green tendrils of a 30-year-old philodendron snaked from one corner of the ceiling and hung down the other. A case displaying rocks and stone tools — finds from many hours of amateur archeological digs he and his son Arthur take together — sat in the entryway.
It's a calming environment, and one Jensen will have to get used to. He is mostly housebound and barred from even lifting his arms above his head until the doctors give the OK. He spends his recent days exercising gently on his stationary bike and watching what he eats.
"I can't push a vacuum or lift a gallon of milk," he said.
But after the physical ordeal he's been through, just walking around is more than some doctors thought he'd be able to do.
Jensen said he owes his life to his 23-year-old son, Arthur.
Paramedics arrived at Jensen's home after Arthur called 911. The team was able to shock his heart back to life, but his brain didn't respond.
It was a red flag.
While Jensen was being rushed to the hospital, paramedics alerted the cardiac team at Exempla Lutheran Medical Center, who quickly prepared to put his body in a state of controlled hypothermia using gel-covered pads pumped with cold water. Doctors use the technology in cardiac situations only if patients don't respond mentally after being shocked.
"If they aren't looking to you, and you can't respond, we do this procedure," said Debra Behr, a cardiac clinical nurse specialist.
The cooling pads were wrapped around Jensen's body to lower his temperature to 91 degrees over a period of 12 hours. For another 12 hours, doctors worked to slowly warm his body up again.
Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly why it works, but most believe cooling the body's core temperature disrupts the release of enzymes and neurochemical responses that hurt the brain, Behr said.
It's a new trend in hospitals, and researchers are busy looking for more applications for the procedure.
Lutheran and other hospitals also use the cooling pads for stroke victims and patients with spinal injuries, she said.
But the technology isn't perfect. Because the body has been through so much trauma by the time doctors put on the pads, the odds of surviving are still low, about one in six.
The procedure is the only available option doctors have if patients don't wake up after a heart attack.
"We use the procedure for the sickest of the sick. Before this technology, those patients pretty much died," said Jeff Reed, clinical manager in the invasive cardiology department of the hospital.
Lutheran has had the cooling pads since late September. Jensen was the seventh person to undergo the procedure.
Reed said the cardiac and nurse team had a "teary moment" when Jensen thanked them for saving his life. Reed said the procedure, even with the limited odds of survival, offers hope that there is more that can be done for patients with serious cardiac problems.
And Jensen is more than happy to have beaten those odds. He can't wait to get back outside to search for more stone tools, arrowheads and rocks in the Colorado mountains with Arthur.
"My son is kind of my life, and I don't want to die," Jensen said. "I just want to get better so I can be an active part of his life."
Doctors at Exempla Lutheran Medical Center say heart attack patients have a better chance of surviving if they call 911 than they do if a friend or loved one drives them to the hospital.