Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Another Day Cheating Death
Aired July 17, 2010 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: The heart stops, the brain slows down and the body gives up - or does it? Forget everything you know about time of death.
Witness three amazing people who miraculously beat the odds, so you can, too. ANOTHER DAY CHEATING DEATH starts now.
(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)
JOAN BROOKS, MOTHER OF CHRIS BROOKS: Christopher!
911 DISPATCHER: 911. Where's the emergency?
JOE BROOKS, FATHER OF CHRIS BROOKS: Middletown Township.
911 DISPATCHER: What's the problem?
JOE BROOKS: My son's not responding here. He - he's breathing. His eyes are open. I don't know what's going on.
JOAN BROOKS: (INAUDIBLE) once a while.
JOE BROOKS: I don't know if he is snoring.
JOAN BROOKS: Chris!
JOE BROOKS: Yes.
911 DISPATCHER: Is he awake and talking to you or not?
JOE BROOKS: No, he's not.
JOAN BROOKS: Hurry up.
911 DISPATCHER: I'm going to give you some instructions.
JOAN BROOKS: Christopher.
911 DISPATCHER: Stay on the line with me.
JOAN BROOKS: Christopher!
(END AUDIO TAPE)
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST (voice-over): Christopher was Chris Brooks, 22 years old, just months from college graduation. He was working construction part time and living at home with his family.
GUPTA (on camera): When that 911 call came in, Chris Brooks was dead, clinically dead for more than 15 minutes. His heart stopped beating shortly after 3:00 in the morning on November 15, 2008.
But here's the thing. It wasn't the end. In his case and in several others that you're about to see, death was reversible.
The night Chris Brooks died began innocently enough at this bowling alley in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, a night out with a girl and his best friend, C.J. Simon (ph) (INAUDIBLE).
GUPTA (voice-over): Was he acting any differently at all? Nothing unusual?
T.J. SIMON, CHRIS BROOKS' FRIEND: No, he was actually acting himself. You know, he's always the life of the party.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOAN BROOKS: He's 22. He just got home from college to work for the weekend. He went bowling.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
JOAN BROOKS: Plugged his cell phone in here and woke me up. And he goes, it's just me, mom. I'm plugging my cell phone in. I said, OK. I said, you know, sleep here? Yes, I'll just sleep down here tonight.
GUPTA: Moments later, there was a noise from the couch. It sounded like snoring, but his mother knew something wasn't right.
JOAN BROOKS: I came over and I bent over him and I went to smack his face and he went like this. And I put my hands down on both his arms to smack his face again, and then I'm like, Christopher! He said, what's the matter? I said I can't wake him up.
(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)
911 DISPATCHER: Is he breathing?
JOAN BROOKS: I don't know.
JOE BROOKS: Here. You talk.
911 DISPATCHER: Is he breathing, yes or no?
JOAN BROOKS: Is he breathing?
JOE BROOKS: I don't know.
JOAN BROOKS: We can't tell, all right?
911 DISPATCHER: Tell everybody to stop screaming and listen to me so I can give you some help.
(END AUDIO TAPE)
GUPTA (on camera): Did you know what to do?
JOE BROOKS: Yes. I watched TV.
GUPTA: You watched TV?
JOE BROOKS: I started giving him mouth to mouth. That's all I know. And the 911 operator, he's the one who told me to stop mouth to mouth and straddle his chest and try to give him 60 compressions in a minute and then just keep doing that. Keep doing that. They're on their way.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
911 DISPATCHER: Bare his chest and put both heels between his nipples.
JOAN BROOKS: Wait a minute. Bare his chest -
(END AUDIO CLIP)
JOE BROOKS: And I'm screaming where are they? Where are they?
GUPTA: For every minute our brains go without oxygen, our chances decrease by about 10 percent. Without help, Chris Brooks, who had no heartbeat for well over 10 minutes, had almost a zero chance of survival.
GUPTA (voice-over): But luckily for Chris, his father was buying him some precious time.
It was a new kind of CPR, and it was pioneered right here in Arizona. It's a better way to save people whose hearts have stopped.
(BEGIN AUDIO TAPE)
911 DISPATCHER: Fire Department. What's the address?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband's not responsive.
911 DISPATCHER: OK. What's your address?
GUPTA (voice-over): This is a call to 911 in Scottsdale, Arizona.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God! Oh, my God!
911 DISPATCHER: Ma'A.M. -
GUPTA: A 53-year-old man is in cardiac arrest, and that's his wife on the phone.
911 DISPATCHER: OK, is he breathing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, he's not.
911 DISPATCHER: OK, listen to me. Someone needs to start CPR. Do you have anyone there that can do CPR?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?
911 DISPATCHER: Some needs to -
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Say what?
GUPTA: Now, listen carefully to the dispatcher.
911 DISPATCHER: You need to put him on his back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's on his back.
911 DISPATCHER: OK. Put the heel of your hand on his breastbone, in the center of his chest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
911 DISPATCHER: OK?
GUPTA: And notice what you don't hear.
911 DISPATCHER: Put your other hand on top and interlock your fingers.
GUPTA: There was nothing in there about breaths. There was nothing about giving breaths.
911 DISPATCHER: And you need to press straight down into his chest, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.
911 DISPATCHER: Go quick, OK? Start counting for me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. One, two --
911 DISPATCHER: Three.
GUPTA: You see, it's all about compressing the chest, and, until just recently, that would have been unthinkable, but it does work, and here's why. For the first several minutes after your heart stops, your blood still has plenty of oxygen. As expert breath holders know, it's sort of this trick that your body plays on the mind.
Synchronized swimmers know this. You can go without breathing far longer than you think, far beyond the point where your body is starting to scream for air. With practice, almost anyone can hold their breath for two or three minutes. Experts can go beyond seven minutes.
Seven minutes without a breath. Think about that. But only if that oxygen gets to your brain, either pumped by your heart or by chest compressions.
Now, in most cases of cardiac arrest, that's still not enough time. But what if you could buy just a bit more? What if you could slow the clock?
GUPTA (on camera): So, where are we right now?
DR. LANCE BECKER, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR RESUSCITATION SCIENCE LABORATORIES: So right now we're in the Center for Resuscitation Science Laboratories at the University of Pennsylvania.
GUPTA (voice-over): And this is Dr. Lance Becker. He's the director.
BECKER: When I trained, it was like, you're alive, you're dead. It was just this sharp line between the two, like going off a cliff. Now, we know it's nothing like that. It's this gradual process, and that process means that there's an opportunity where we could do something.
GUPTA (on camera): Some would say, look, you know, don't bother with the mouth to mouth at all. You know, you've got oxygen in your bloodstream. The key is to move it around the body.
BECKER: The trick is get as many compressions in as you can, and then if you can get a little extra oxygen in, that's fabulous. But the priority is on those chest compressions.
GUPTA: Just so I'm clear, you're saying go up there and do it as fast and hard as you can? I mean, what are we talking about, 100 times a minute?
BECKER: A hundred times a minute with pretty much enough force that, if you do it right, there'll be sweat dripping off your nose after two or three minutes.
GUPTA: Your arm goes straight over the guy's chest and you are -
BECKER: Go straight over -
GUPTA: Push, push, push, push.
BECKER: Push, push, push.
GUPTA: What you're describing could save lives?
BECKER: It has saved lives.
GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Ben Babro oversees emergency services for the Arizona Department of Health. Now, when he took over in 2004, the odds of surviving a cardiac arrest in Arizona were just as grim as anywhere else - less than three percent.
DR. BEN BABRO, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: We said, you know, it's hard to do a lot worse than 97 percent of the people dying. We really said, you know, we - we had - we have to do something better and we've got to do something quickly. GUPTA: One of the first things he did was change those CPR guidelines. For paramedics in Arizona nowadays, it's 200 chest compressions in two minutes, then defibrillation or a shock four times over before giving that first artificial breath.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got two minutes to learn to save a life?
GUPTA: For lay people in training courses like this and from 911 dispatchers, the advice is even simpler than that. Don't bother giving any breaths at all.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
911 DISPATCHER: And what I want you to do is we're going to do compression only CPR so you're -
(END AUIDO CLIP)
GUPTA: And within a year, at Babro's changes, there was dramatic success.
BABRO: In fact, statewide, the survival rate has more than tripled.
GUPTA: More than tripled.
In some parts of the state, it's even better than that. Last year, with several new procedures, including this better CPR, paramedics based in Flagstaff saved more than a third of their cardiac arrest victims.
But back in Pennsylvania, time was still running out for Chris Brooks.
Next, another novel treatment to try and keep him alive.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOAN BROOKS: Come on, Chris. Come on, Chris.
911 Dispatcher: How old is he? He's 22 years old?
JOAN BROOKS: Twenty-two.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
GUPTA (voice-over): Joan Brooks. Her son Christopher is dying right in front of her. Husband Joe is doing CPR.
JOE BROOKS: Then they say, well, do you have any heartbeat? Do you have any breath? And I'm listening. "No, I don't." And just screaming, "Where are these people?" It was taking - eight and a half minutes is - is a lifetime.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOAN BROOKS: Oh, my God.
JOE BROOKS: How close are they?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
I don't know if he can imagine how - in second, and a second is an hour, if you know what I mean.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOAN BROOKS: I don't see them. They're here now. (INAUDIBLE).
911 DISPATCHER: Have the people come in.
JOAN BROOKS: Oh, my God. Come on, Chris. Come on, Chris.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
GUPTA: It had been more than 15 minutes since Chris' heart had stopped beating.
JOAN BROOKS: And when the medics got here, I had moved over to here and I was pacing up and down behind this couch here. And I just - I wasn't - I didn't watch them do their work.
MICHAEL HELLYER, PENNDELL-MIDDLETOWN EMERGENCY SQUAD: We start with the CPR. Adam, who was my partner that evening, shocked him.
JOE BROOKS: They hit him with the paddles and he jumps and they go, nothing. Well, that is - nothing is nothing. I don't know how to explain what nothing is, but that's not -- you know? And then they did it again, and it was nothing.
GUPTA: You see, Joan had lost three family members in less than a year - and she was frantic.
JOAN BROOKS: I yelled at God, you took my mother, my dad and my brother. You are not taking my son. And then I yelled at my mother, I said, mom, you don't want your grandson up there. Don't let this happen.
HELLYER: Adam had to shock him again. At that point, he went into an asystole rhythm which is a flat line.
GUPTA: But this is important. The paramedics didn't quit here. They gave Chris yest another shot of epinephrine and another drug atropine, all of it to try and jumpstart his heart.
HELLYER: Adam shocked him. His rhythm converted into what we call a normal sinus rhythm.
JOE BROOKS: They gave him a needle in the heart and all of a sudden, I got a heartbeat. Whoa, out the door they went.
GUPTA: The paramedics rushed Chris to the local hospital. It's just minutes away.
GUPTA (on camera): Chris Brooks isn't out of the woods. Not yet. Even after getting back a heartbeat, most people who suffer cardiac arrest don't make it.
GUPTA (voice-over): That's because when the heart stops, a dangerous chain reaction is set into motion. It's triggered by a lack of oxygen, a chemical cascade in each and every cell, resulting in an explosion of free radicals and other dangerous elements. Once this whole thing starts going, it's hard to stop.
DR. HARRY EMMERRICH, ER CHIEF, ARIA HEALTH BUCKS COUNTY: Cell death will actually occur for 12 to 24 hours afterward which is why we induce the hypothermia.
GUPTA (on camera): In other words, Chris' doctors would ice him down, lower his body temperature. Here's the idea. By cooling Chris, they would put the process of death into slow motion.
What is it about hypothermia or cooling that seems to make a difference?
BECKER: This is one of the things that the scientists love to argue about because we're not exactly sure. But what we know is it does a lot of good things in the setting of an acute injury, so your cells don't need as much oxygen. That's good at a time when you're deprived of oxygen.
GUPTA (voice-over): So, doctors wrap up Chris in this special cooling blanket. But they also realize something else. He needed to be even colder, and they needed a more experienced team to do that.
EMMERICH: The absolute best place for him and the best chance he had for a full recovery was to be at University of Pennsylvania.
DR. BEN ABELLA, HOSPITAL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: We accepted the transfer and we got him here by helicopter as quickly as we could. Chris had been down for quite a while. In these sort of situations people often have crippling brain injury.
GUPTA: You know, I would have thought Chris Brooks would have had a terrible brain injury as well. But Abella's team was fighting back. How? By cooling his body temperature below 90 degrees.
Now, on top of the extra minutes that Chris got from the CPR, it was this cold that might buy a few hours. Would it be enough?
You're looking at the Life Flight chopper with Chris inside. This photo was taken by his father.
JOE BROOKS: I took my camera out and took a picture of them as they were leaving because I couldn't go with them to the hospital, and I have - I was by his side the whole time. GUPTA: While cold was helping Chris Brooks, that very same cold can also kill. I went on a mission to see what hypothermia is really all about.
GUPTA (voice-over): When you look at pictures like these, death probably isn't the first thing that springs to mind.
We are north of the Arctic Circle. This is Tromso. And this is the air ambulance team at the University Hospital of North Norway. Dr. Mads Gilbert heads the hospital's Department of Emergency Medicine.
DR. MADS GILBERT, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL OF NORTH NORWAY: This is an extreme environment that's very cold and in this environment we have a lot of hypothermia.
GUPTA (on camera): Doctors here in Norway make runs like this every single day, taking care of skiers trapped in the mountains or fishermen who fall into this frigid waters. They may be among the most experienced doctors in the world in treating accidental hypothermia.
Is too much cold bad?
GILBERT: Too much cold is a double-edged sword. It can kill you and it can save you.
GUPTA: It's amazing.
GILBERT: It's amazing. It will kill you if your heart stops from cold before your brain is cold, just to put it very simply. It will protect you if you get cold enough before you have a cardiac arrest so that your organs do not need oxygen. We can do more in a cold patient before we lose him than in a warm patient.
GUPTA: And that's why the helicopter teams here don't warm people whose hearts have stopped in the cold. Instead, they wait.
It was a lesson they finally mastered with Anna Bagenholm. She nearly froze in an icy stream. She had no heartbeat for more than three hours. Her body temperature - 56 degrees Fahrenheit. No one has ever been that cold and then survived.
GUPTA (on camera): Is it something that you take pride in, the fact that you've -
ANNA BAGENHOLM, SURVIVED CARDIAC ARREST: No, no, no, no.
GUPTA: You have this - this -
BAGENHOLM: No. Well, it's nice to have a world record. But I mean - GUPTA: You have a world record.
BAGENHOLM: But it's nice to have a world record that, you know, nobody wants to beat.
GUPTA: All right. That's a very good way of putting it.
GUPTA (voice-over): I'm going to tell you how Anna did it and how her doctors made history. But first, I wanted to get a little taste of what it's like to get really cold.
GUPTA (on camera): This is a sort of rescue suit. It's not quite what the fishermen wear but similar to it.
The benefits of hypothermia were found by accident. In cases of near drowning, doctors found that the patients could live a lot longer if the water is cold. Today, the water is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm going to get a firsthand look of what happens when the body becomes hypothermic.
Even in this protective suit, I can tell you it hits you like a slap in the face. The first thing you notice is it's hard to breathe. Your wind is just sort of taken out of your diaphragm. The next thing you notice is whenever the water hits your skin, it stings. It's sort of the beginning of what happens. This is deep water. It's very cold.
It goes without saying that it's very cold and when the helicopter came in the entire face, forehead became really, really cold. You have a hard time catching your breath. Also, it's like a diving reflex. Your heart rate starts to slow down, your blood pressure starts to drop. I got really nauseated. Thirty-five.
GUPTA (voice-over): That's 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
GUPTA (on camera): This is - this is early hypothermia. It's - it's pretty amazing. I wouldn't even guess that. I was only in the water a few minutes.
GUPTA (voice-over): Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees, mine 95. I was dizzy, nauseated, a little confused. Below 85 and your heart is in trouble.
Remember Anna Bagenholm's temperature was 56 degrees. Anna was fresh out of medical school when she chose to live here in Narvik. It's a skier's paradise.
In May of 1999, she was going down this steep gully with two friends and fellow doctors in training, Marie Falkenberg and Torvind Naesheim.
BAGENHOLM: The problem is that when we come down to this frozen ledge, it is very steep. So I hit some stones and then I turned on my back and started to slide down the ice on my back. And then Torvind, he was a bit lower and Maria was a bit higher. And then they kind of get - got rid of their equipment and run to me, because what I actually did was that I - I kind of hit a hole in the ice so that the head went under.
GUPTA (voice-over): What happened was she landed upside down with her head stuck under water between a rock and a thick shelf of ice. In fact, this is the exact spot where this all happened. Two of the men involved in Anna's rescue showed us.
KETIL SINGSTAD, RESCUER: She was where the water was. They're not deep (ph). It snow most of the year (ph). Over the cliff here.
GUPTA: You can only imagine the desperation her friends must have felt as the moments started to tick by. She struggled for a while and then she stopped.
It took more than an hour and a shovel to free Anna from the ice. Torvind and Marie immediately started CPR.
As the clock was ticking, a helicopter flew Anna to the University Hospital of North Norway. It's an hour away in Tromso. She was taken straight to the operating room.
GILBERT: She has completely dilated pupils. She is actually waxy white. She's wet. She's ice cold when I touched her skin and she looks absolutely dead.
This is the double edge sword again. The cold was protecting her brain. It was stopping her heart but it was protecting her brain. The brain was so cold that it did not need any oxygen.
GUPTA: And the doctors began to slowly re-warm Anna's blood. Now, take a look at this. This is Anna's heart.
GILBERT: Just saw some little shivering and suddenly, suddenly, it contracted. And there was a pause and a second contraction. Ah. Everybody goes like that and we had really tearful eyes, all of us, because it was a moment of - of victory.
GUPTA (on camera): Everybody that we've talked to they talked about that moment.
BAGENHOLM: I know. I know.
GUPTA: So the heart's - the heart's like this --
GUPTA: -- and then it starts to beat again.
GUPTA: And they talk - have they described that moment to you?
BAGENHOLM: Yes. But, I mean, I've been - I've been taking part in some re- warmings of other people.
GUPTA: Yes. This is you we're talking - this is your heart.
BAGENHOLM: Yes. But, I mean, I've seen movie - I've seen movies like that.
GUPTA: But when you saw them - so you saw the movie of your own heart stopped and then started again.
BAGENHOLM: I wasn't so impressed.
GUPTA: You weren't impressed?
BAGENHOLM: No -
GUPTA (voice-over): Anna was paralyzed for months after the accident. It turns out that cold is devastating to your nerves, but she made a full recovery and now she's a radiologist at the very same hospital where doctors refused to accept that she was dead.
And in case you're curious, I was. Anna still skis those mountains where she once cheated death.
And there's something else to the story as well. Anna and Torvind Naesheim, they were friends at the time this all happened, but in spite of this accident, or maybe because of it, they began dating. They now live together in Tromso.
Next, Chris Brooks, a crucial test.
JOE BROOKS: We wouldn't know until he wakes up and it depends on how good you kept the oxygen to the brain.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon. Here are the headlines.
BP's testing of its new cap will continue for another 24 hours. It's already been underway for 48 hours with no oil leaking. The National Incident Commander Admiral Thad Allen says this testing period will provide valuable data on how to proceed in finally killing the blow out.
In custody tonight, an alleged drug kingpin known as Pablo Escobar of the Caribbean. Jose David Figaroa Agusta was the region's most wanted fugitive, but DEA says they finally caught with him in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
He escaped from prison in that country about 10 years ago while serving a 209-year sentence for kidnapping. Those are your headlines at this hour. "Cheating Death" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta continues right now.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chris Brooks, 22 years old in critical care at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He survived more than 15 minutes without a heartbeat.
Now under heavy sedation, he's being cooled to try and ward off brain damage. Doctors kept him cool for 24 hours, and then slowly, slowly, started to re-warm him. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's fine, except for his brain. We have no test that can tell us his brain. We won't know until he wakes up. It depends how good you kept oxygen to the brain. Well, depending on if he will have any brain damage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not trained in CPR or anything so this couldn't be good.
GUPTA (on camera): And you were thinking I was the one who is --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's what they've said, it was going to be -
GUPTA: Did I do a good enough job? Is that what you were thinking?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's how they put it.
MELISSA BROOKS, CHRIS' SISTER: When they started reheating his body and they said, like, you know, he might start to come out of it, don't be scared if he doesn't know who you are. Don't be scared, you know, like he's obviously been through a lot.
We can't check his brain waves until he's conscious. He started coming out of it. He couldn't talk or anything, that tube was still in his throat. Everyone is always holding his hands. Chris, if you can hear me, squeeze my hand. Squeeze my hand.
SIMONE WATSON, NURSE, HOSPITAL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: They can give you the two thumbs-up sign, they're OK because that's pretty high level.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had one hand under the sheet and he gave her two thumbs up. I said, that's just like my son not to listen to what he's told!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we've got emergency medicine here.
GUPTA: Dr. Lance Becker says cooling is a lifesaver, but he also reminds me that not everyone gets that chance.
My dad lives in a really small town in the Midwest. He has heart problems. If he were to have cardiac arrest, is he less likely to get this care that you're describing, he lives there, as compared to here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think in general he is less likely.
GUPTA: That's kind of scary to hear. I mean, you know, for the average person who, you know, again, doesn't have this sort of access. We are not talking about a multibillion dollar drug here. We're talking about using a bunch of ice and cooling somebody down. If it can save lives, why don't we do this everywhere?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is staff and personnel intensive. It can't be done in a non-monitored sort of way. You can't cool someone down too much because you can also injure them that way. So, if, you know, it has to be done carefully, but it's well within the capabilities of any hospital.
GUPTA: I don't want to overstate this, but this literally makes a huge difference in terms of survival?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can double the chance of brain survival.
GUPTA: This could?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.
GUPTA: It's amazing. You know, you think about multibillion dollar drugs, and that's what gets all the attention. This piece of plastic and this machine could double survival and no one talks about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.
GUPTA (voice-over): The hypothermia is also time sensitive. That means the sooner, the better.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I want to cool you down very rapidly, I don't have a good way to do it. We began working on how can we cool a person down quickly. So we decided to develop a human coolant.
GUPTA: A human coolant? Let's take a look. Let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is -- if you will, this is sort of our Frankenstein version of a totally novel device.
GUPTA: Truth is, it's not ready to use on patients. But this gizmo could inject an icy solution to cool you down in a matter of minutes, instead of hours. Doctors know that if a critical patient is to survive, they've got to be stabilized within 60 minutes, called the golden hour.
Difficult enough in Pennsylvania, but what if you are a wounded soldier in a war zone? When I traveled to Afghanistan, I got an up- close look at the challenge.
(on camera): These medics over here say they are ready for just about everything, including emergency triage in the field.
(voice-over): As well prepared as they are, they still face serious limits.
(on camera): For sure, every second does count, but as you might imagine, trying to induce hypothermia on the battlefields of Central Asia is just impractical.
(voice-over): They can't drive an ambulance into the mountains of Afghanistan and they can't send a medic hiking through the bush with chilled saline. But there may be another way to help these soldiers, a way to put the benefits of hypothermia into a shot.
At least the Defense Department thinks so and they're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to try and steal the secret from? Squirrels.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These animals are very cold to the touch. They're about 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
GUPTA: Matt Andrews, a professor at the University of Minnesota, loves to talk about his hibernating ground squirrels.
MATT ANDREWS, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: And when you look at it on the surface, would you never think that something like this may hold a secret for surviving profound blood loss.
GUPTA: But here's the connection -- hibernation. It's a kind of slow-motion that's more extreme than what happens with hypothermia.
ANDREWS: They lower their metabolism so their body temperature goes down. The heart rate is extremely slow. The blood flow to all the tissues is very slow.
GUPTA: But think about it. Even as they get very little oxygen and no food, they still survive the winter just fine.
ANDREWS: If you could duplicate just some aspect of this, then you also could buy time for a person who has been injured.
GUPTA: For critically wounded soldiers or civilians.
ANDREWS: A bullet, a stabbing, automobile accident. They would normally have a great deal of difficulty surviving beyond a matter of minutes.
GUPTA: Andrews' research partner is surgeon Greg Beilman, who also a colonel in the Minnesota National Guard. He's been to Afghanistan, to Iraq, and Kosovo. He knows first hand the importance of extending the golden hour.
DR. GREG BEILMAN, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Time goes on. The tissue is less able to generate energy to continue to respond to that shock period, and so the patient dies.
GUPTA: Beilman and Andrews developed an experimental drug. It's basically a shot of the same life-sustaining chemicals found in those hibernating squirrels. And now they are testing it on animals, such as this pig, to see if it protects against massive blood loss. Normally an animal that loses half its blood will die in five minutes. Given this drug, that same animal lives for three hours.
ANDREWS: So that way, that extends that window of life extend in what's called an emergency medicine as the golden hour.
GUPTA: But what about people? Farfetched as it may seem, we have inside all of us the genes that in squirrels are linked to hibernation. Andrews and Beilman just want to find a way to flick on the switch.
BEILMAN: When I am designing animal experiments in the back of my mind is how is this going to help the next generation of doctors and nurses and medics care for combat-injured people.
GUPTA: What if you could stretch that golden hour even longer to the golden day, the golden month or even the golden year? Enough time to fix anything.
Coming up -- the man who might just do it.
GUPTA (voice-over): Mark Roth is a biologist in Seattle. He's at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center. Here in this lab he developed the approach of cheating death through suspended animation.
MARK ROTH, BIOLOGIST, FRED HUTCHISON CANCER RESEARCH CENTER: One of the things I was very interested in is the fact that some people given certain circumstances don't actually die.
The 29-year-old skier in Norway is trapped in waterfall. Her core temperature falls to 13 degrees "c." She has no capacity to sustain a heart rate for nine hours. She re-animates.
GUPTA: The key is changing metabolism. But the question is how? Hibernation is one trigger. Cold is another. Roth found other clues in very simple animals, insects, tiny fish. Is there a formula amongst all this for suspended animation?
ROTH: Yes. There is a formula for it and the way you turn them off is to simply reduce the oxygen concentration.
GUPTA: Of course, everyone knows reducing oxygen is bad, but ironically eliminating altogether can put you in a state of suspended animation. And to do that, Roth gave the creatures a dose of toxic gas, hydrogen sulfide, truth as strange as fiction. What's your favorite movie?
ROTH: "The Princess Bride."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is almost dead or a little dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. A lot dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: What ends up happening is creatures don't move. They actually appear dead, only they're not.
GUPTA: With backing from the military, Roth decided to try his experiment on mice. Take a look here. Here's the mouse getting a dose of toxic hydrogen sulfide. Now, a normal mouse would just be a ball of activity. Not this one. He isn't sleeping. He isn't dead. It's just that every process in his body, even death, is in slow-motion. When I came to visit, Roth showed me how he did it.
ROTH: What you're doing here is you're just dimming the metabolism, just dimming the light a bit.
GUPTA: Outside the lab, the theory goes like this. Slowing things down would lengthen the window of survival. Think about that.
ROTH: For soldiers who get shot and they are losing their blood, they die before they can get to definitive care.
GUPTA (on camera): So, it's the same thing, right? You don't have enough oxygen.
ROTH: Not so different than the mice we spoke about where we could extend their survival limits.
GUPTA (voice-over): Today, we revived this rat after less than an hour.
(on camera): How is our rat doing?
ROTH: He's OK. He's starting to move around and stuff and he's started to get over the whole deal and behave.
GUPTA: So, he's back?
ROTH: Yes, he's back.
GUPTA (voice-over): But in the original experiment, Roth kept that dimmer switch down for six hours then brought the mice back to normal.
ROTH: It sounds like they died then we stopped the experiment because we felt like we made our point.
GUPTA: It worked well enough to land Roth in the pages of "Ripley's Believe It or Not." Is there any reason why it wouldn't work in people?
ROTH: I'm not aware of them, but I'm sure they could exist. What you want to do is have the patient's time be slowed down, while everyone around them moves at what we would call real-time. In that way, this person has, if you will, bought time.
GUPTA: So, it's not a stop button as much as it is a slow-forward button.
ROTH: Well, in the case of what we're talking about in mammals, we're thinking of a slow-forward button, a dimming.
GUPTA: Is the premise if we can buy doctors or health care professionals a little bit more time -- ROTH: The whole emergency medicine, you know, having it take -- it's a time-dependent thing, and somebody either has enough time or they don't.
GUPTA: Enough time. But there's something else. For Roth, the fight against death is also personal. It is grounded in a family tragedy.
(on camera): What happened to your daughter?
ROTH: She passed away when she was 1 after spending a month in the ICU following heart surgery.
GUPTA: Do you think that had an impact on your choice of scientific pursuits?
ROTH: It did. Yes. Yes so, I -- I spent -- there's things that happened. You get -- it focuses the mind when certain things happen to people, and it certainly focused mine.
GUPTA (voice-over): Nowadays, his focus is on a private company that he helped found. They are developing hydrogen sulfide in an injectable form, hoping to use it as a drug for humans.
If you put mice in a state of near suspension they are far more likely to survive any number of experiments. Blood loss, heart attack as compared to mice who are not given hydrogen sulfide. Do you think doctors have more time they can fix anything?
ROTH: Anything? That's too far. But things that are not helped now could be helped without question.
GUPTA: For now, he's still chasing "The Princess Bride."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROTH: There was no doubt he was suspended in so far -- fully de- animated his friends would agree. There is no question he comes back and rides off into the sunset at the end. So, yes, he does fit the bill having done that, right.
GUPTA: That has a happy ending.
ROTH: That has a happy ending. Definitely has a happy ending. Yes, yes.
Next, a woman who says she got a glimpse of life after death. What the science tells us, that's just ahead.
GUPTA (voice-over): All of these people share a special bond. They're survivors of sudden cardiac arrest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most patients --
GUPTA: You see, as emergency care gets better as more people join this unusual club, we hear more and more about what it's like to die.
I first met Laura Garrity when she showed me the place where she died. For Garrity who is a grandmother and a school bus driver from North Andover, Massachusetts, that day started like any other. She was on her final morning run to Newton South High School when the trouble began.
LAURA GARRITY: My stomach hurt really bad. A sharp pain that I've never had and I thought it was heartburn.
GUPTA: She was able to park the bus, but then something happened.
GARRITY: Pain went right up my arm and into my chest. At that point I said, I'm having a heart attack.
GUPTA: The high school nurse and the CPR trainer came running out with the school's new automated external defibrillator. The next 30 seconds went fast. She felt weak and then couldn't catch her breath.
(on camera): Like that she was unconscious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was definitely gone.
GUPTA: As far as onlookers could tell, Laura Garrity was dead. Flat on her back, right there not 50 feet from the doors of the school. But Garrity says, in fact, she was somewhere else.
GARRITY: I floated right out of my body. My body was here and I just floated away.
GUPTA: What did you see?
GARRITY: What did I see? I've seen white -- it was very peaceful.
GUPTA: When you looked at your body, where there people working on you?
GARRITY: I seen people, but I kept going. I went to see my mom and my ex-husband and they both came and it was very peaceful. It was very peaceful and it's so peaceful and it was bright and it was beautiful.
I remember trying to reach out to my ex-husband and he would not take my hand and then they floated away and then I was just there and this massive energy, this powerful - the very powerful energy and when that was happening, it was a picture of my son and my daughter and my granddaughter and every second just like their pictures just flashed into my mind. That must have been when I came back.
GUPTA: Garrity says she is not a religious person, but this gave her pause. GARRITY: I didn't see God or Jesus, but I was there. I know what it was like.
GUPTA: You were where?
GARRITY: I was up in heaven.
GUPTA (voice-over): This is where Laura was brought. It's the emergency room at Newton Wellesley Hospital. Dr. Bill O'Callaghan was just finishing his shift that day.
DR. BILL O'CALLAGHAN: She had no pulse, she has no blood pressure and she wasn't breathing on her own. Most laymen would describe that as being dead.
GUPTA: A dozen more shocks with a defibrillator and still nothing.
O'CALLAGHAN: I said I'm going to shock her three more times and we are going to have to stop. And she came back on the very third one, if you can believe that.
GUPTA: Incredibly after 57 minutes, 57 minutes, Laura Garrity was brought back from the dead. Even more amazing, she has no brain damage even after going nearly that hour without oxygen and brain flow.
What about that mesmerizing story? Why do many people who die and come back return with such vivid memories. Dr. Kevin Nelson who is a neurologist thinks he may have the answer. He thinks it's an answer rooted in brain science.
DR. KEVIN NELSON, UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY: You have an abrupt medical crisis. It is the brain's response to danger.
GUPTA: Nelson thinks the near-death experience is simply, well, he thinks it is a waking dream.
NELSON: We know that the visual system is robustly activated during dream. This accounts for the light that is commonly seen.
GUPTA (on camera): There is a tunnel that a lot of people describe. Can that be explained away by what is happening in the brain?
NELSON: In the retina of the eye is one of the most exquisitely sensitive tissues to the loss of blood flow.
GUPTA (voice-over): So when the retina doesn't get enough blod, your vision goes dark from the edges toward the center looks like a tunnel. What about the out of body experience? Nelson says he can recreate the same sensation simply by making you faint. At the Center for Resuscitation Science, Dr. Becker is keeping an open mind.
DR. LANCE BECKER, CENTER FOR RESUSCITATION SCIENCE: I believe the brain is just the most amazing organ that we have and it can do many, many things that we don't understand. So I don't really know the answer. GUPTA: I asked Laura Garrity and she says this was no dream.
GARRITY: I know I went someplace else. I know there's a different place than, you know, here.
GUPTA: Whatever happened, Laura Garrity was dead and now she's not. The same thing true of Anna Baggenhold and then, of course, there is Chris Brooks.
(on camera): There you are. I'm touching you. You are walking.
(voice-over): Six months after his heart stopped, Chris graduated from college. Yes, he still goes bowling with his best friend and he's got a job in Philadelphia trying to save money to buy a house.
CHRIS BROOKS: I do play (pingpong) and HVAC. I don't let things - don't let this hold me back.
GUPTA: He has a defibrillator now that is implanted here, just underneath the skin. It has actually gone off twice. One time, it was during a pickup football game.
BROOKS: As I'm walking towards the sidelines boom, it hits me, took me right off the ground. Flat faced on the grass and out probably for 10 seconds.
GUPTA (on camera): You got shocked?
BROOKS: Yes and it kicked me.
GUPTA: Wow. That is amazing.
GUPTA: And if you hadn't had that?
BROOKS: I would have went into cardiac arrest again.
GUPTA (voice-over): Doctors don't know why his heart stopped in the first place and he told me something else about that that was disturbing.
(on camera): When are they going to figure this out?
BROOKS: I hope soon. I mean, now, it's -- what we are dealing with now is insurance. I'm 23 years old and I'm not in school anymore so I don't have insurance yet.
GUPTA: Is that part of the holdup?
BROOKS: I guess.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Brooks is about close to a medical miracle as we have in modern medicine. It is remarkable to see someone who has had no blood flow. Twenty years ago would have been declared dead or brain dead go back to functioning normal life. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything had to work, everything. The right paramedics showed up. You know, what I'm saying? Everything was perfect for this miracle to happen.
GUPTA (on camera): In a lot of circumstances, you may have been declared dead.
GUPTA: What is the message do you think for doctors, for everybody?
BROOKS: Don't give up. I guess, don't give up.
GUPTA (voice-over): And that's what all these survivors and their loved ones wanted me to take away.
GARRITY: Don't give up. Don't give up on somebody. I was on my very last shock and I came back. I believe that everybody deserves their fair chance and don't give up on them too soon.
DR. TORVIND NAESHEIM, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL OF NORTH NORWAY: Never give up. Never give up. Never give up because there's always hope.
GUPTA: There is a monument to that determination. The shovel that was used to cut Anna Baggenhold free from the ice. Today it's hanging by a tree right by the stream where she was saved.
(on camera): The message they keep giving back to me is don't give up. Don't ever give up.
BECKER: I personally think it is one of the hardest decisions you have to make when you're dealing with a patient. There comes a point when you're pretty darn sure that your efforts are not going to be fruitful and so you make a decision. But, you know, in the back of your mind, you know, in the back of your mind you go, in 10 years from now I think I could save that guy.
GUPTA: Wow. I've been thinking about all of this since medical school nearly 20 years ago. Many of the people you met tonight simply wouldn't have survived. Instead, they are cheating death. As medicine moves forward more and more of us are going to cheat death as well. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks so much for watching.