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Hypothermia treatment brings patients back to life



Peggy Tippin has a new lease on life after dying and being brought back to life again with therapeutic hypothermia, a cooling treatment recommended by the American Heart Association to treat cardiac arrest.

“I have a whole different outlook,” said Tippin, 53, director of student services at Daymar College. “If it weren’t for the Baptist Health staff, I wouldn’t be here. How do you tell someone thank you for saving your life?”

Tippin was at work Jan. 22 when she collapsed in the hall. Co-workers began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation until Mercy Regional’s ambulance arrived. Emergency medical technicians, including former co-worker Clay Venters, shocked her heart six times before arriving at the Baptist Health Paducah Chest Pain Center, but she went almost 45 minutes without blood to her brain.

Neurologist Joseph Ashburn, M.D., determined Tippin needed therapeutic hypothermia after tests showed no brain waves.

“She was brain dead,” Dr. Ashburn said. “Most hospitals don’t offer therapeutic hypothermia, but it doubles the chance of people walking out of the hospital.”

Cooling the body gives the brain a break while other organs compete for oxygen in a crisis, such as cardiac arrest, severe trauma or stroke. It also stops the toxins produced by the brain when it doesn’t receive oxygen, which causes brain damage. 

Tippin’s veins were injected with iced saline to bring her body down to 91 degrees Fahrenheit. She also received a paralytic drug that stops shivering. 

The next day, Tippin, who had studied sign language, was signing to her family to ask what had happened to her. She soon regained her memory, although she still does not remember a few days before her collapse. She was diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia, which had stopped her heart, and cardiologist Bradley McElroy, M.D., implanted an internal defibrillator to prevent it.

She walked out of the hospital in a week and was back at work in three weeks following a collapse that could have ended her life.

From the EMS to the Emergency department, the whole team involved in her care witnessed a miracle, Dr. Ashburn said. “To be a part of it is a miracle,” he said.

A few weeks later, therapeutic hypothermia saved another at Baptist Health. David Foglesong had been unloading drywall when he suffered a heart attack because of a 90 percent blockage in one of his main arteries.

“I was dead,” said Foglesong, 72, of Paducah, “but now I feel great.”

Cardiologist Kenneth Ford, M.D., put in two stents before performing therapeutic hypothermia on Foglesong to make sure his brain function returned. He was able to leave the hospital after a week.

Dr. Ford said hypothermia has helped several patients since it was adopted at Baptist Health a few years ago. “These are people who may not have had a chance to survive if we didn’t try this route,” Dr. Ford said.