In what appears to be a rare twist, British woman who had cardiac arrest and almost died, revived after six hours, thanks to hypothermia.
Hypothermia is the condition of having an abnormally (typically dangerously) low body temperature.
Mash was feeling the worst of it. She was slurring her words. She wasn’t making sense. Then she suddenly went quiet and fell over in the snow, unconscious.
“I thought she was dead,” Schoeman later told local station. “I was trying to feel for a pulse (but) my fingers were also numb. I couldn’t feel breath. I couldn’t feel a heartbeat.”
Doctors say Mash had developed a severe case of hypothermia on the hike, and she would not have survived if not for a new technique that kept her alive through a six-hour period in cardiac arrest.
In a rare twist, the hypothermia helped keep her alive while her heart wasn’t beating, they said.
A rescue helicopter saved the couple from their ordeal after a weather delay, then rushed Mash to Vall D’Hebron hospital in Barcelona. She did not show any vital signs and her core body temperature was only 18 Celsius at the time, well below the normal 37 C.
But doctors didn’t give up. They hooked Mash up to a cutting-edge medical device called an extra corporeal membrane oxygenation machine (ECMO), which performs the same function as the heart and lungs. They used the device to give Mash’s organs a break while they slowly waited for her body temperature to come up.
They finally restarted her heart and brought her back to life later that night, after her body temperature had reached 30 C.
“Although hypothermia was about to kill Audrey, it also saved her because her body — and above all her brain — didn’t get any worse,” Dr. Eduardo Argudo said at a news conference Friday. He spoke alongside his very relieved and very alive patient, who appears to have made a full recovery.
“If she’d been in cardiac arrest for that long with a normal body temperature, we’d have been certifying her death,” Argudo said. “But we knew that the severe hypothermia meant that we had a shot at saving her thanks to the ECMO.”