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September 10, 2010

Cooling treatment aids heart attack victims in Fla.

By Jason Witz
The Sarasota Herald Tribune

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. — Carmela Carillo fell to the ground and stopped breathing. The heart attack threatened to claim her life within minutes.

But emergency crews arrived and began cooling her body temperature to prevent cell damage from her heart suddenly restarting.

The procedure helped save her life.

The Port Charlotte woman, 49, is one of two local survivors who have benefited from induced hypothermia protocol, an unconventional method of combating cardiac arrest.

Charlotte County Fire/EMS officials announced the new form of patient care Thursday.

"It's almost like something out of a science fiction movie," said Dan O'Leary, medical director for Charlotte County Fire/EMS.

The treatment, once considered controversial, lowers the body temperature of a resuscitated heart attack victim to between 89 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit using cooled intravenous fluids and ice packs.

Following cardiac arrest, O'Leary said the body enters a state of metabolic chaos as the brain is deprived of oxygen. Oxygen and nutrients in the blood no longer remove harmful toxins.

Once a heart is restarted, paramedics inject the cooling solution and slow any damage resulting from a restriction in blood supply to organs. A patient can remain in this hypothermic state for up to 48 hours, O'Leary said.

Charlotte County Fire/EMS recently received a state grant to install refrigeration units on its ambulances to provide the first responder care, which is also available at all area hospitals. Sarasota and Lee counties have been using a similar treatment for cardiac patients, O'Leary said.

Craig Baird, 81, considers himself lucky to be alive.

The Port Charlotte man suffered a heart attack July 9 while bowling with friends.

He spent 12 days in a local hospital recovering, unaware that he was induced into a hypothermic state for hours.

Baird, who was the first patient induced locally under the new treatment, said he owes everything to the paramedics who gave him a second chance.

"I wouldn't be here without them," he said.

Copyright 2010 Sarasota Herald-Tribune Co.

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