Marshfield dentist Bill Berry, DDS, is one of the lucky ones. He was one of only 8 percent of patients nationwide to survive a cardiac arrest, and of those, one of the 30 percent who are able to return to a normal life. His “luck” was due to in part to receiving immediate CPR, and within two hours after his arrival at the Emergency Department at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield receiving therapeutic hypothermia HT).
Each year in the United States, nearly 383,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital. The condition occurs when the heart suddenly stops functioning. Immediate CPR and emergency medical care must be provided within minutes to restore a regular rhythm, or the person will not survive. Once a normal heartbeat is restored, treatment for these comatose patients includes therapeutic cooling, (HT) to help prevent further damage to the brain and other tissue.
“Therapeutic hypothermia is considered an important therapy for a comatose survivor of cardiac arrest,” said Chris Bohn, RN. “It’s the only therapy proven to increase brain function and survivability after cardiac arrest. This is done by lowering the body temperature to approximately 90-93°F, thereby slowing the brain’s cellular metabolism and protecting it against the damage initiated by the lack of blood flow and oxygenation when the heart stops beating.”
Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital is the only hospital in north central Wisconsin providing Therapeutic Hypothermia via an intravascular cooling device. This catheter is placed in the large vein of the leg and eliminates the need for ice packs and other devises that attach to the skin causing shivering, irritation and skin breakdown. The hospital presently has three units located in the intensive care units.
“The sooner we can get patients to their goal temperature (cold), the better,” said Bohn. “Usually we can get them to 90°F within two hours of return of circulation. It takes another 24 hours to re-warm these patients back to a normal temp (98.6°F). We constantly monitor their heart rate and vital signs so the intensive care team can manage any side effects.”
Recovery, if possible, occurs on an individual basis; with most patients waking up quickly after re-warming takes place. It can take as long as 72 hours to begin waking up before the medical team needs to have further decisions with families regarding prognosis and next steps.
“Most patients suffer from short-term memory loss, but that eventually gets better,” said Bohn. “Statistically, we are talking about a small population that can be helped through therapeutic hypothermia, but if it’s you or a loved one, it makes all the difference in the world. Ministry Saint Joseph’s has had quite a few good outcomes.”
Berry is living proof of how HT can make a difference. He was discharged from the hospital eight days after his cardiac arrest. Before leaving, he had an internal defibrillator implanted in case his heart stopped again. After a period of recovery time at home, he was able to return to work at Marshfield Dental Clinic. The family no longer looks at Friday the 13th as unlucky, since that’s the date of his cardiac arrest and subsequent care and recovery.
“Not only did the quick thinking and skilled efforts of the well-trained staff combine with the miraculous technology to save his life that day,” said his wife, Darlene. “But the compassion and kindness of the staff will never be forgotten. And, since the incident, he’s enjoyed the birth of twin grandsons, danced at his daughter’s wedding, and shared in the joy of his other two daughters’ success in a journalism career and professional advancement in Madison. We have many reasons to be thankful.”