Cooling technique helps prevent organ damage after cardiac arrest

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A chilling medical treatment used at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center is helping cardiac arrest patients recover by preventing permanent damage to the body's vital organs.

It's called Hypothermia Protocol.

"That afternoon actually started off with a band practice," said Glendon Golamco. "When I woke up, I looked at my shirt and I was filled with wires. And I couldn't believe I was in the E.R."

Golamco has no recollection of his brush with death or week-long coma.

"I asked [my wife] what was going on and she said, ‘don't worry it's OK we're not going to tell you now,’" Golamco said.

The memories of Golamco's sudden cardiac arrest are still very raw for his wife Jennifer. The couple was at a friend's house last year.

"That's where I just collapsed basically," Golamco said. "I hit the floor."

A friend performed CPR on Golamco until EMS arrives.

"He actually flat lined a couple of times," said Jennifer Golamco, Glendon's wife. "One of the EMS people came up to me and said, ‘I just want to let you know that he's not doing very well. I just want you to prepare yourself.’"

Golamco was unresponsive and not breathing.

"You start to develop decreased oxygen to your body, to your tissues and more importantly to those organs," said Novant Health Registered Nurse Cesar Muniz.

Muniz says cardiac arrest can cause permanent damage to your vital organs even if medical staff gets your heart beating again.

"This is a hypothermia cooling device," said Muniz, referencing a device used at Forsyth Medical Center called the Arctic Sun.

The Arctic Sun works to protect the vital organs of cardiac arrest patients. Novant Health used it on Golamco to chill his body down to 88 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 10 degrees lower than normal.

"That's the ideal temperature where you can drop someone's temperature to and allow them to conserve their organs," said Muniz.

Patients are wrapped in pads. Cold water then flows from the machine into the pads.

This treatment helps oxygen-deprived organs not work as hard.

"All along I thought they just dumped me into a tub of ice," Golamco said.

Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center started using the Arctic Sun about six years ago and says it’s relying on the treatment more and more for cardiac arrest patients.

While Golamco's recovery can't single-handedly be attributed to this device, medical staff says it made a big difference.

"Statewide when we started the project, the survival of a cardiac arrest was at five percent for an out-of-hospital [cardiac] arrest," said Novant Health Nurse Manager Karen Norman. "The latest study for our hospital now is up to 13 percent. And that's a big gain and that means we're saving more lives."

The American Heart Association says there are nearly 360,000 cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year in the United States.

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