Atrium Medical Center’s aggressive way of protecting brain function using therapeutic hypothermia is the best treatment available today for improving outcomes after cardiac arrest. When Todd Green began using sign language, his family was thrilled: therapeutic hypothermia had worked.
A Sign of Things to Come
Todd’s family was nervously gathered around his bed at Atrium Medical Center. When Todd had arrived at Atrium’s Emergency Trauma Center after going into cardiac arrest, he had remained unconscious. As a result, an emergency procedure known as therapeutic hypothermia had been started in the hopes of preventing brain damage.
For two days with therapeutic hypothermia, Todd’s body had been cooled and he had been sedated as part of the procedure. Now, it was time to begin “warming him up” once again, and the big question everyone worried about was: had the procedure been successful or would there be brain damage?
“Slowly, over the course of an hour, Todd was warmed up and the sedation decreased,” Todd’s wife Holly said. “He had a breathing tube in his mouth, so he couldn’t talk. His eyes were shut, but all of a sudden he started signing. Todd teaches the deaf in Sunday school, and he signed that he wanted water. We were all overjoyed. His brain was working!”
Todd’s family started “high-fiving” each other, and there were hugs and tears. Todd gestured that he wanted to write something. When given a paper and pen, he wrote, “What happened?”
“We knew he was going to be okay,” Holly said.
Another sign—a stop sign—had been the beginning of Todd’s life-changing journey. On September 7th, on his way to meet his parents for lunch, the stop sign in Franklin was the last thing Todd remembered that day.
Prior to that day, the 40-year-old had no health problems; in fact, he has a rigorous job as owner of Midwest Construction.
“I later learned that other drivers couldn’t figure out why my car wasn’t moving,” Todd said. “They came to my car and saw that I was unconscious. But I had both feet on the brake.”
Quick response by passersby, the police department and the rescue squad started a chain of events that saved Todd’s life—and his brain function. CPR
was begun at the scene, and the rescue squad used a defibrillator
to start Todd’s heart rhythms on the way to Atrium’s Emergency Trauma Center.
“A team had been alerted, so we were ready to start procedures right away with Todd,” said emergency physician David Romano, MD
. “His condition was assessed, and we determined no further procedures were needed for his heart. But, Todd was still unconscious. Technically, with his heart event, he had been clinically dead for a while. Our main concern shifted to his neurological functions.”
Luckily for Todd, a procedure known as therapeutic hypothermia became available at Atrium the previous spring. Therapeutic hypothermia is a medical treatment that lowers a patient’s body temperature in order to help reduce the risk of injury to the brain.
“After sedating the patient and providing breathing assistance, a catheter is placed in a large blood vessel in the groin area. The catheter cools the blood, lowering the body temperature,” explains Marquita Turner, director of Emergency and Trauma Services. “This allows for decreased oxygen needs of the brain and improves the patient’s chances of preserving brain function.”
Dr. Romano points out that many medical facilities may only be able to cool a body with chilled blankets and wraps. “Atrium’s aggressive way of protecting brain function is the superior way of preventing neurological loss,” he said.
Marquita adds that therapeutic hypothermia doesn’t have guaranteed results. “This procedure has one in five chances of preventing loss in brain function,” she said. “But, it’s the best treatment available today for improving outcomes after cardiac arrest.”
Todd, the father of 17-year-old twins and 12-year-old triplets, had a full recovery. “My heart is just fine, and there’s no loss of brain function,” he reports. “We’re so grateful that Atrium was equipped to handle everything that was happening to me.”
“From the moment we were there until the day we left, every person at Atrium treated us with love, respect and great concern,” Holly said. “Even the nurses from the Emergency Trauma Center later came up to Todd’s room to see how he was doing.”
Holly said that being able to understand what therapeutic hypothermia was all about was very important to her and the family. “People took time to explain the procedure and why it was needed,” she said.
“We give thanks and glory to God, of course. But we are also grateful to Atrium for the rest of our lives,” Holly concludes.