When hypothermia can be a good thing

** Guest blog by Don Marentette, Red Cross Canada’s national manager of first aid programs. Don is currently in California attending the Emergency Cardiovascular Care Update conference. We asked him to share some updates on the conference on this blog. Here is his second entry.

One of the highlights for me during this week’s conference was the session on therapeutic hypothermia for a person suffering from a cardiac arrest. Yes you heard it correctly; hypothermia is a good thing for these people!

Coming from Canada, that is a foreign concept – to intentionally freeze someone. Well, that’s stretching it a bit, but all joking aside, we heard a great presentation from one of the leading clinicians using this technique, Dr. Ben Abella.

When hypothermia can be a good thing

CPR pioneer Dr. Knickerbocker with staff and volunteers at the ECCU conference

Often when someone receives bystander CPR, an AED is used and they are transported to the hospital. If we are lucky enough to bring them back there is a large risk of re-injury as the blood rushes back into the brain and areas of the damaged heart. This is called a reperfusion injury.

Research has shown that cooling a person’s body temperature down to 32-34 degrees Celsius for 12-24 hours dramatically increases survival rates. Not just survival, but survival with complete neurological brain function.

The day wrapped up with an absolutely beautiful Survivor Gala that brought together 50 survivors of cardiac arrest and their rescuers. We heard stories from all over North America, stories of rebirth, and stories of thanks. All survivors received a birth certificate signed by CPR founders, Doctors Jude and Knickerbocker.

I can tell you it was hard to find a dry eye in the house when 2.5-year-old Kinlee Ryne Keltner walked up to the stage and presented both Dr. Jude and Knickerbocker with a rose and thanked them. Kinlee suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of drowning in a backyard pool and was successfully resuscitated by her father on July 16, 2010. Just one part of today’s incredible celebration.

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