Resuscitating Life after Cardiac Arrest

Brain Injury Blog by  Janet M. Cromer

April 19, 2011

Resuscitating Life after Cardiac Arrest

We’ve all heard the warning that brain cells start to die within three, four, or five minutes without oxygen. What happens when the brain doesn’t receive oxygen for forty-five minutes? A severe anoxic brain injury.

My husband Alan suffered a massive heart attack and cardiac arrest. This happened on an airplane as we awaited take-off in 1998, just before it became mandatory to have automated external defibrillators (AEDS) on all flights. A few things went right, and a few things went wrong in the crisis that ensued. It took over forty-five minutes of CPR before Alan’s heart leapt back to life. He was left with a severe brain injury that defined our lives for years to come.

Several doctors have told me that Alan had about a 5% chance of surviving that heart attack in those circumstances. That made me wonder about all the cardiac arrest survivors who are not tracked in any central registry. How many of them have anoxic brain injuries? Cardiologist say that “most” survivors have some degree of brain injury. We need much more research and treatment as more people survive cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest from a heart attack is only one cause of anoxic brain injury. I’ve met many people in support groups who sustained an anoxic injury from an electrical malfunction in the heart that caused a fatal arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). Others have complications from anesthesia, or a cardiac arrest during surgery. Drowning, smoke inhalation, and carbon monoxide can also prevent the brain from getting vital oxygen.
Anoxic brain injury is classified as an acquired brain injury since the cause is something going wrong inside the body, not an external force as happens in traumatic brain injury. Recently the Brain Injury Association of America added the statistic that 795,000 Americans sustain an acquired brain injury every year. That’s the first time that I’ve seen a huge figure for what I call the “forgotten” brain injuries. Acquired brain injuries don’t get as much recognition as traumatic brain injuries. The treatment for impairments is often the same, but cognitive and vocational rehabilitation services can be even harder to access.

Anoxic brain injury hits hard at the “watershed” areas of the brain that are most sensitive to any reduction in oxygen. These areas-the hippocampus, amygdala, basal ganglia, and thalamus- are involved in long-term memory, new learning, controlling emotions, and body movement.

Anoxia also causes diffuse damage which can make it harder for the brain to retrain other areas to take over lost functions. Even so, Alan made impressive progress over months and years of rehabilitation. He regained his abilities to walk, talk, read, write, and think to varying degrees.

So what is it like to come back to life after successful resuscitation? While the emergency department staff was saving Alan, I sat alone in the waiting room praying frantically and making resolutions.

I resolved to change any complaint or dissatisfaction that Alan had ever voiced about me.

Dear God, if Alan lives I’ll stop working evenings so we can have dinner together every single night. I’ll slow down my walking pace so he can keep up with me. I’ll stop “bleeding out loud” about my work stressors. I’ll take care of him in every way possible to restore his health,

 In desperation, I even vowed to give up nagging. Alan would probably tell you I never completely gave up nagging. I would say that after his brain injury I got to call it “coaching.”

For the first few years after Alan’s brain injury we celebrated July 5th as his “second birth-day.” We went out to our favorite restaurant for baked stuffed lobster and toasted his courageous determination and our shared resilience. Alan always said, “Since I came back to life, I think I deserve birthday presents on two days a year.” I made sure he received tons of presents.

As time went on, Alan didn’t want to be reminded about all the horrors he’d been through, or how many ways his life had changed. By then he was reasonably happy leading a new life with new interests and reasons for getting up every morning. We stopped the July 5th celebrations, but I shuddered as the date approached.

To me, July 5th will always be the day my husband died for the first time. And the day he came back to life.

If you or a family member has an anoxic brain injury, please share your story. We need  to raise awareness and encourage more research and treatment.

Before Alan’s cardiac arrest, we never knew that he had serious heart disease. That’s not uncommon. Here are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  1. If you have a family history of heart disease, have regular check-ups, eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and learn to manage stress.
  2. If you have high blood pressure, follow the plan you made with your doctor. Take your medicines as prescribed, and follow a healthy life-style.
  3. Consider taking a cardiopulmonary resuscitation class in your community. Now these classes often show how to use an AED since defibrillators are placed in many public areas and can save lives. Rescuers use a defibrillator to shock the irregular heart rhythm back to a steady beat. Visit the American Heart Association for more information.

Janet is the author of Professor Cromer Learns to Read: A Couple’s New Life after Brain Injury. See Janet’s website at http://janetcromer.com/ and her blog at http://janetcromer.com/blog.

42 Responses to “Resuscitating Life after Cardiac Arrest”

  1. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Tiara,

    My heart goes out you, your mother, and your sister. You’ve all been through so much trauma and loss. You deserve enormous credit for making such difficult decisions so maturely. Many middle aged people never have to make decisions on behalf of a loved one like you already have. The Brain Injury Association in your state should have a list of specialized facilities. Or they will be able to tell you where to get such a list. Who is holding you up right now, Tiara? I hope you’ve found a counselor, social worker, clergy person, or trusted friend to lean on and share your feelings about this tragic situation. Please try to keep yourself safe and with people who respect and care for you. I will keep your family in my thoughts and prayers.
    Janet

  2. TIARA says:

    These stories have given me a lot of information and hope along with my family’s own beliefs and faith. My mother 46 suffered cardiac arrest on Feb 14 2014. It took EMS an hour to bring her back on the floor of her bedroom. She was than rushed to er and she coded again and they where able to bring her back. Her second and third day there she was stabilizing herself but had suffered severe brain damage, the doctors gave us no hope. Her EEG showed no brain activity just brain stem. Her doctors told us that she had no changes and they didn’t see her recovering because she had no responses. Still I continued her treatments and a week later she was breathing on her own but still needed the tube in to keep her airways open. It’s been a full month now, no changes in her EEGs but she can open eyelids but doesn’t focus and only to family members’ voices. Doctors aren’t giving any hope for recovery but when I look at her I refuse to give up on my mother. I’m seeking to have her moved to a long term facility to get proper care because I can still see her in there like she’s trapped. Prayers are all I have left now I’m only 22 and have a 13 year old younger sister where just hoping for the best. If anybody can give me any information on facilities whom specialize in her conditions please let me know. To me the doctors aren’t giving her enough time to see where she could get some kind of recovery. I suffered from the loss of my grandmother 2 yrs ago and now I’m in a dysfunctional situation. My mother is a great caring and giving person who deserves time and a chance she hasn’t given up on herself so I will continue to not do so either.

  3. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Clark,

    Thank you for sharing your amazing survival story. Your determination to regain skills is truly in your favor. Has any doctor suggested that you have a neuropsychological (“neuropsych”) evaluation? I’ve found that many cardiac arrest survivors are not offered the same rehabilitation options that traumatic brain injury survivors find beneficial.That’s probably because cardiologists don’t understand anoxic brain injury. I’m not a doctor, and cannot offer medical advice. However, I know from personal experience that a neuropsych eval is the starting point for finding services to help with memory, emotions, and thinking problems. Keep on searching, and all the best to you.
    Janet Cromer

  4. Clark says:

    June 29, 2012, I had a massive heart attack at age 38. I remember nothing of the incident and has made life since feeling off, unsure and somewhat fearful. The last memory I have is on June 19th ten days prior to the MI. The day of the incident, I was exercising, felt bad I guess, took aspirin, drove myself to the hospital, collapsed in a full blown MI, crashed into the hospital, was pulled from my truck, CPR was done for 1h 45min…..thank you Jesus for placing people in my path that did not give up on me……after a somewhat stable rythmn was obtained I was airlifted to a larger hospital, with a 5% chance of survival. I was rushed into the Cath lab, where a stent was placed in my widdow maker which was 100% occluded. My first memory would be 8 days later, awakening in ICU from a induced comma, unaware of what had happened, feeling like I had been hit by a train. Since my heart attack, I have issues with remembering things, at first it was very frustrating, I could remember faces of people I had worked with for years but unable to remember their names. As time has gone by it has gotten much better, but there is a kinda blank numbness when it comes to my emotions. I remember I wasn’t like that before and pray that someday I will get it back.

  5. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Kris,

    Your dad and your family are hovering in that precarious place between life as we know it and life we can’t yet imagine. My heart goes out to all of you. I believe that talking to your dad and touching him are big contributions you can make, whether of not he regains critical brain function. I’ve long been struck by how many life-altering decisions families are called upon to make while we are in a state of shock and suspended reality. Even though I was a nurse, I didn’t understand that until it was my turn. I hope you have supportive and loving people around you. I’ll keep your family in my thoughts and prayers.
    Janet

  6. Kris says:

    My dad is a 54 year old man who had suffered a respiratory arrest on February 10th, 2014. He’s a truck driver, and he managed to call 911 from his truck before passing out over the wheel while parked in a truck stop. The ambulance got him on route to the hospital, they put a breathing tube in but it went down into the esophagus instead of the windpipe, and he flat-lined in the ER. He was, however, brought back to life.

    He was in the US, Ohio to be exact, when this happened. We’re all from Ontario Canada. They put him into an induced coma for 3 days, and whenever Mom asked how long he was without oxygen, no one would tell her.

    He was moved up closer to home February 19th. And on the 20th we were in the private waiting room with the Doctor. She believes he was without proper oxygen for 30 minutes, and that he will not be coming back. Two EGG ( Or EEGs, I forget what they are ) were done while he was in Ohio and it showed minimal brain activity, the brain stem is the only part of the brain still working near efficiently.

    He’s still in the ICU today. He has little tremors, little shakes. If you pinch his arm he tries to pull it away. He did some big yawns in the last few days, and he will open his eyes, however it’s just a blank stare, he doesn’t seem to track bodies. His pupils do react to lighting though.

    They have a feeding tube in and all his other organs are obviously working fine, since he has been urinating and pooping. With all this in mind, it’s impossible for me and my Mom to loose hope in him that easily. Reading all these stories have helped a bit in giving us more hope. It’ll be two weeks on Feb 24th.

    My mom keeps talking to him, telling him that if he didn’t want to take her out for Velentines, he could’ve just said so. She’s hoping one of these times he’ll open his eyes and look at her, and just say “Shut up “.

    We do have a DNR in place, knowing dad, he’d slap us all silly if he saw how he was living right now, but moms not ready to give up, and neither am I. He’s not my dad, he’s my best friend. I’m a daddies girl through and through. We motorbike together, go to the races, I go out in the truck with him a lot since I’m currently unemployed. I know if he does survive, I will still probably not have the same Dad. But at least I can still take him to the races and to hockey games.

  7. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Jennifer,

    Thank you for sharing your story. The loving bond you shared with your mother, as well as the pain of losing her, comes through clearly. One of the most honorable gifts we can give those we love is to make the toughest decisions on their behalf as we know they would make them for themselves. The choices your family faced sound very well thought out and substantiated by the doctor’s clinical judgement. Your courageous mother had a strong will to live, yet the strongest people know when they’ve had enough. Alan lived for seven years after his cardiac arrest and brain injury. In my book I detail the ways in which his brain injury contributed to dementia and Parkinson’s disease. I’ve learned that people who have anoxic brain injuries have much higher rates of dementia and movement disorders, so their battles are not over when they learn to read and write again. Cherish your memories of your mother, Jennifer. I believe that she is smiling down on you and your daughter.
    Janet

  8. Jennifer says:

    My mom passed away Feb. 18, 2013 at the age of 63. Hard to believe it has almost been a year.

    Her first cardiac arrest was in February of 2011. She had suffered heart attacks in the past but this was the first cardiac arrest. She was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital when she arrested and they were still working on her when she arrived there. They were able to finally get her heart beating again and was taken to the cath lab where a stent was put in the left main. She did recover from this event with cardiac rehab.

    Her second cardiac arrest was in December of 2012. My sister drove her to the hospital as she wasn’t feeling well and she collapsed in the ER waiting room. CPR was begun immediately. Once again taken to the cath lab by a new doctor who came to be the best doctor who ever worked on my mom. The stent from Feb. 2011 had been put in incorrectly and had excluded but the new dr was able to balloon it back open. Once again on a ventilator but she was responsive.

    This doctor went on to call her one of his miracle patients and really wanted her to speak for the AHA the next Feb. My mom had undergone bypass surgery twice in the past and she just didn’t think she could do it again. This doctor agreed to work with her but she had to have a cath every 6 months to check the stent. She had a defibrillator implanted in April 2012. He reopened the stent again in July 2012 but under controlled non-emergency situation. She was supposed to schedule another cath for Jan 2013 but she kept putting it off. Ian not sure if she was tired of all the procedures or really just thought the defibrillator bought her more time.

    On Feb. 11, 2013, her defibrillator went off twice at her home. My brother who lived with her called 911. The ambulance arrived to take her and I went to hospital to meet them and in the meantime called her doctor to let him know she was en route to ER. We all thought she would be fine because of the defibrillator and being in care immediately. Once she arrived she coded several times. My family was taken to that horrible private waiting room off the ER that you never want to be in. Her doctor came in to speak to us in tears, asking what happened, why did se not come in to see him sooner. He said she had been shocked several times by her defibrillator and he wasn’t sure if she would make it but he had to take her to the cath lab to try.

    In the cath lab she coded several more times. Eventually her doctor came out. It was the same stent again and he had been able to re-open it but we had to wait to see how her brain did. I heard him but it just didn’t sink in because in my mind, since she had CPR immediately and was incubated immediately, it would be like before, but maybe just a longer recovery.

    The next morning I arrived at the hospital before the rest of my family and never thought it would be like this. She was completely out and I asked the nurse if they had sedated her for fighting with the ventilator (as she had done in the past). They said no and that I needed to speak to the neurologist. When I did he told me he predicted brain death. There is nothing worse than hearing that. Her cardiologist told the neurologist not to give up on her yet she has pulled miracles before. But as the days went on there was much change. The rest of her organs had all failed that first night, which had not happened in past, but they were starting to improve. But not her brain. The neurologist said he put her now somewhere between brain death and vegetative state. She sometimes opened her eyes but didn’t look at you and he said it was just brain stem. He told us the longer we kept her alive like this the more likely she would be stuck in a vegetative state. Even if she did wake up she would not be herself anymore and she would have to live in a home for constant care with no independence. My mom did not want that we knew.

    On Feb. 18, we removed all life support. It took several hours for her to pass. No one tells you that. There is no dignity in death like this. But when she did finally pass, she went peacefully and I held her hand. I was 18 weeks pregnant at the time with her first grandchild. She was so excited but she would not have wanted to live this way or have him see her this way. I still battle with our decision at times but reading some of these posts helps me realize we made the right decision for her. I still keep in touch with her cardiologist, he is a wonderful man who deeply cares for his patients and who helped give us more time with her that we never would have had after previous cardiac arrests.

    My mom was a caring, humble, unselfish and loving person who never complained “why me” despite the tough medical life she had been dealt. Due to genetics as she did try to do preventative measures. Those 2 years we had from feb. 2011 – feb. 2013 were so special and meaningful. I hope her story helps people in some way, even if it just brings peace that sometimes it is time to let go.

  9. thanks for helpful suggestions and just excellent information

  10. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Melissa,

    I agree with Marilyn about how devastating the aftermath of cardiac arrest is for everyone involved. The uncertainty can make it very difficult to make decisions and plans. I hope that your friend will receive as much rehabilitation as possible.
    Janet

  11. Dear Melissa,
    My heart just goes out to friends and family when I hear these stories of cardiac arrest. It is such a devastating event – both physically and emotionally and the future is so uncertain. Whatever the outcome, they will need much support from people like yourself.
    Marilyn Lash

  12. MELISSA says:

    We have a friend who is a coworker of my husband that suffered cardiac arrest a couple of days ago while working. CPR was started immediately He was down for approx. 1 hour before EMS were able to restore breathing and heart rate. He is undergoing therapeutic hypothermia as we speak. His family has been given little hope of full recovery. But We believe God can do ALL things… please keep him and his family in your prayers. Thank you

  13. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Brenda,
    Thank you for sharing your story, which will give others hope. There are so many mysteries in life, many even beyond the explanation of modern medicine. That combination of best treatment, hope, prayer, and support gives a person the best chance of recovery.
    Janet

  14. Brenda says:

    Hi Janet,
    Thank you so much for sharing you and your husband’s story. On February 20th of this year, I went to an imaging center for a chest ct scan. I had an allergic reaction to the contrast dye and went into anaphylactic shock and cardiac arrest. The wonderful people at the imaging center did cpr for 18 minutes. I was transported to the hospital and by the time my family arrived they were given little hope of my survival. They were told if I survived at all, to expect brain damage. For three days, they were given very little hope. During this time I was treated with therapeutic hypothermia. After three days, I woke up, a non-contrast ct scan was done and no brain damage was evident. I was discharged on the ninth day, and one of the few memories I have is of a doctor coming in my room and saying he just wanted to shake my hand. He was in the ER when I was brought in and had followed my treatment. He said that if anyone would have told him in the beginning that I would be sitting up having a conversation with him, he would never have believed it.

    I am so thankful for the treatment and care I received. I think the addition of therapeutic hypothermia in treatment after cardiac arrest will help a lot of others in the future. I have to say though, more than anything, I credit a loving God who answered many prayers!

    Best wishes to you and Alan!
    Brenda

  15. michael says:

    thank you

  16. Janet Cromer says:

    Hello Michael,

    Thank you for your comment. I am glad that our story gave you hope. We learn so much from each other, and give each other hope and courage even when life does not go exactly as we wish.

  17. michael says:

    hello all .I just wanted to say JANET M CROMER I really wish you knew how much you and your husband story has impacted my family and me we found such hope in your story it really help have a hole different outlook on this situation I just really really want to say THANK YOU FROM MY FAMILY TO YOU AND YOUR HUSBANS GOD BLESS YOU AND I WISH YOU NOTHING BUT THE BEST .AND TO EVERYONE ELS AS WELL THANK YOU FOR THE SUPPORT YOU PROVIDE FOR PEOPLE THESE BAD TIMES ITS SUCH A HELP AGAIN THANK YOU .GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU AND GOOD LUCK.

  18. Dear Michael,
    I am so sorry – and can only imagine the enormous loss in your life with your Dad’s condition. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Marilyn Lash

  19. Dear Joseph,
    Thanks for sharing your story – it really is remarkable and will give hope to many. To say you are lucky to be alive is really the ultimate understatement! So many wonder what happens in that mysterious state of coma and very few actually are able to tell us as you have done.
    Marilyn Lash

  20. Joseph Conrad says:

    Yes, me too! 50 year old, thin man in good shape simply ‘dropped dead’ waiting at the counter of a local pharmacy. No warning, no pain, no symptoms then or ever.

    I woke with what seemed like EVERYONE! hovering over my hospital bed repeating over and over that I had a massive heart attack and was in the Cardio wing of the best hospital in 3 states.

    After Induced Hypothermia for 2 1/2 days I did wake – and my family finally found out whether I had severe brain damage and/or what level of impairment I had suffered. I tried to make the most clever joke I could (which was weak, like me) and everyone laughed loud and hard, mostly from relief ‘that I could actually think after being dead for so long’ – prior to that nobody could say whether I was brain dead, severely and permanently impaired or what. So many odds had been against me (including having been all alone for 2-3 days prior to collapsing).

    I was still weak and mentally impaired from the trauma and the Hypothermia; I ‘acted out’ vivid, imaginative and very active dreams, often getting up and roaming the hallways getting into serious trouble! Recovery is like nothing else – you don’t just bounce back like other experiences. It’s months before things feel normalized.

    Had to have Automatic Defibrillator implanted in my upper chest and make a ton of changes, but I died and came back to life against combined odds of over 200-to-1. How would you feel? Some days it feels magical; some days it feels like despair because my body has betrayed me forevermore.

    There is no commonality; so many things must happen exactly right for you to survive. So many things could have gone only slightly wrong and it would have been over. 15-20 years ago, it would have been all over.

    ‘Being dead’? Who can say. It may have been a commonality of experience caused by chemical reactions to what happened; it may have been what it felt like – a different dimension. How can you describe or understand a different dimension without ever having experienced it? Impossible and it’s folly to attempt description. The profound cannot be easily put in words, but can be imagined with suggestion and simple description of what happened.

    I died – Reality and Melo-Drama had a rare coincidence in my life and both were real, vivid and I can never forget what it was like. I think about it all the time.

  21. michael says:

    My dad had a sudden cardiac arrest. He was down for 30-35 mins and suffered a anoxic brain injury it really sucks. The doctor say that he won’t make a meaningful recovery. They also said he would never breathe on his own and urged us to take him off the life support. We just couldn’t bring are ourselves to call it quits so we didn’t and we had him transferred him to the VA. They confirmed he did have a pretty substantial amount of brain damage but has brain stem function remaining. So now he has been breathing on his own for five days now. He is not really responsive as of now. They say he will remain in a vegetative state most likely but we’re going to leave that up to god. He works wonders and there’s no doctor better then the big man up stairs. So we are going to keep our faith in God and hope for the best. All of these people deserve a fighting chance. From my stand point, who knows what can happen? I’m sure crazier things have happened. I just pray for my father. He gave me life, he showed me how to walk, how to talk, and how to be a man so it the very least I can do. So please if you have any info on this that maybe can help, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you God bless you all and wish you the best in your situations DONT GIVE UP.

  22. Dear Jose,
    I am so very very sorry – words can simply not express the trauma and pain you are facing with your wife’s condition. Life truly changed in an instant for all of you – your wife, yourself, and your daughters. I urge you to find someone to talk to who can help you through this crisis. It may be a chaplain or social worker at the hospital, or someone in your community. Please consider seeing your doctor for help with your mental health as a psychologist or psychiatrist could help you deal with such overwhelming emotions.
    Marilyn Lash

  23. Jose says:

    Hello All,
    As I type this I am destroyed. My 29 year old wife and I just had a baby girl who is 4 months old. Last sunday November 3, 2013 My wife put told me she just put the baby down and our 3 1/2 year old daughter was playing. She told me she was going to go for a walk. 30 minutes later police officers knock on my door to tell me she was found unconsious on the side of the road by a passerby who gave her CPR and required 9shocks by EMS when the arrived to restart her heart. Her down time is unknown. She was given hypothermia and is on ECMO cardiopulmonary bypass as well as mechanical ventilation. When they warmed her up she started having seizures of her eyes at which time the neurologist saw her an started an EEG as well as a repeat CAT scan of her brain.

    Two days ago the neurologist told me that the scan shows severe anoxic brain injury along with severe swelling. She has been off all sedation for one day now and is still unresponsive. All her organ functions have improved except for her unresponsiveness. I was told that she will likely remain in a vegetative state for ever. Iam going crazy right now and have lost all hope and faith. To the point of contemplating suicide this morning but the thought of leaving our two little girls orphans is unbearable, as they will always need their daddy.

    I dont know what to do except to keep on drinking to the point that I fall asleep. My mind is destroyed at the thought of never being able to see my wife’s eyes open on their own and telling her how much I love her. I dont know how to go on except praying for a miracle. She is only 29, we just bought a new home this past april and just had our 4 month old daughter. I feel helpless to the point that Its unbearable to be at her ICU bedside or to be in our home where I can only see her touch on everything.

    This is not supposed to happen. This was not part of our plans. It is not fair as we were just starting our life together. Iam praying for a miracle and that with time she may regain some awarness as the remaing swelling goes down. Iam sorry for this long post but I just needed to write about this and how helpless and lonely I feel.

  24. Lou Thibault says:

    I read what I wrote and forgot to add the fact that the biggest part of my disability is the fact that I only have 35% of my heart left and that really make me anxious and uncomfortable. Could you add this in my story once you edit this please and thank you.

  25. Lou Thibault says:

    Hi. I read some of the letters that were written here to see where I fit in the picture. I am writing this on my own not using spell check and wanting you people out there to know that I suffered from a cardiac arrest and my employee found me in my client’s basement already dead. I owned a moving company and fell in my client’s closet dead from a cardiac arrest. It took the paramedics 18.5 minutes to revive me once the call had been received. I do not want to go into the details about everything as I can’t due to my anoxic brain injury but what I can tell you is that from April 02 2011 until today, I have gradually worked hard each and every day and today Nov 03/2013, I live independently and in my own apartment.

    I love life to the fullest. Doctors call anomaly, my pastor and church friends call me a wonderful miracle. I do have memory issues, I cannot smell nor taste and some days, I can barely speak due to the damage created in my throat, and that to me is really no big deal as I CAN walk,talk,take care of myself hygienically and go for daily walks. My family is so impressed with the way that I have chosen to live my new life. I do have limits in memory but I have found ways to help myself through it all. each and every day is a blessing and I treat it that way. if there is anything that I can do to help anyone get through the rough spots, please feel free to contact me. I will try to help in any way that I possibly can.

    Do not lose hope in your loved one. they will never be the same and either will I but 20 minutes without a heart beat,no smell. no taste, very little memory and the list could go on but I chose to live each and every day turning that around and focusing more on the things that I can do. the things that I would like to do and I spend time helping the people that are worse off than I am and by doing so, it gives me the hope that I can still do something in the world to help someone less fortunate than I was at this time.

    There is probably more than half of my beautiful story missing to this but for today, with a big grin on my face, this is all that I can remember and I have learned to be ok with that. It is what it is and with that, I will do the best I can. God bless you all. I did not look for mistakes, did not correct words, just wrote what I could and I’m ok with it all.

  26. elena forget says:

    My 28 year old daughter went into cardiac arrest, July 18th, 2012. She had to be resucitated, and place in an induced coma..Cristina is bulimic, alcoholic, and past drug user. The arrest ocurred due to lack of pottasium in her body. I’m a desperate mother trying desperately to see if someone out there is going thru the same thing. One year later her neurological evaluation was complete. We were told that she suffered permanent brain damage due to lack of oxygen to the brain. Results are: slow thinking, trouble registering information, slow capacity, visual memory difficulty, no innitiative, lots of effort. Although we have seen some improvement, my husband and I feel that she is manipulating us. Please is anyone going thru this? Is there a support group? Cristina can no longer live alone, only with supervision. Is anyone out there going thru the same thing? Desperately trying to help my daughter who says doesn’t need help.

  27. Dee Dee says:

    My husband 44 years old had a massive heart attack on 06-15-2013. I did CPR until EMS arrived. They took over, I followed to the hospital with two of our four children in the car. He coded two more times in the er. When they let me in to se him he was having a seizure. He was moved to ICU where he coded three more times. They told me he has anoxic brain damage. Two weeks ago I was told that his brain will not recover and he has reached a plateau. In that same conversation the doctor stated that his breathing has hit a plateau as well and that he will be ventilator dependent the rest of his life. Today was 7th day of no ventilator and he was breathing humidified room are and maintaining a spo2 level of 97% to 100%. They are discharging him tomorrow after 66 days. Since the same doctor told me that his breathing has hit a plateau and then a week later he is breathing on his own. Should I be cautious to believe that his brain is still on that plateau or be hopeful that he is just trying to recover? I am lost and need to understand. I do not want to give up, but I cannot let myself believe so hard only to have it snatched away again. Any advice???

  28. Cath mcevatt says:

    My husband 54 had a cardiac arrest in front of me on 11th July 2013 I had taken him via ambulance to A and E his ECG was fine and they gave him gaviscon for indigestion five minutes later he arrested it was horrific it looked to me like a massive seizure he was given three cycles of CPR and then two rounds of defib they got his heart going again but he was unresponsive and not making effort to breath so the intubated him And he was blue lighted to the cath lab in the heart and chest hospital he had a stent fitted and then remained in an induced coma and put into hypothermia for five days I felt so helpless and scared he is now home but very anxious and having problems with his short term memory I am currently off work with stress but I am going to try And return soon he starts his cardiac rehab next week and has gone from not ever taking as much as a paracetamol to taking 18 tablets a day which is really hard for him my husband was an extremely fit man at his last medical in feb 13 his bp cholesterol weight were all excellent and he was congratulated by our doctor for his good lifestyle Please be aware a cardiac arrest is never as you think it is my husband had what I describe as severe heartburn and tingling in both hands our lives will never be the same again my husband seems so vulnerable as he comes to terms with what as happened to him I don’t really feel up to returning to work yet I feel so anxious all the time but I am worried that my employers will not understand x

  29. Sisterinlaw says:

    While reading this and comments for the past few hours the the middle of the night awaiting word from rewarming of my ex brother in law who went into ca while asleep (wife heard gurgle/silence) on his 41st birthday….. From a text he’s responsive! Knows family and following directions so far.,my tears are flowing I had to share.

  30. Jeff Yost says:

    My 33yo wife suffered cardiac arrest 7 days after our second child was born. Luckily i was able to give CPR within seconds of her collapse, 10 minutes into it the paramedics finally arrived. It took the EMTs another 10 min to difribulate her heart back into rythym. 3 days into ICU, less than 24 hours from being removed fromt he breathing machine, my wife experienced horrifying endless back to back seizures for the next 3 days. the docs seemed to give up on her, suggested she will never wake and to seek long term nursing home. 12 days later my wife woke up with severe brain injuries. she remained hospitalized for a total of two months, then was sent home. therapy has been a joke. there is no one who knows what to do. no meds to help the brain heal, no real brain injury/cognitive therapy, etc. its all been placed in my hands. this last 19 months have been a journey beyond belief. my baby boy is healthy and happy, my wife has made tremendous progress. she is continually slowly improving. her clarity has come back, but is still confused too. her short term memory does not work and her long term memory is very foggy and confused. she has behavior issues with other women (i think jealousy and competitive emotions). her college education is erased. my 6yo daughter has a hard time with this but is staying possitive. i cant take my wife anywhere public as her behavior and lack of “filtering” her thoughts have proven to be difficult. i do see that twinkle in her eye and i know she is still in there somewhere. i have stayed flexible and can adapt. i keep an open mind and accept her for who she is and what she has gone thru. almost everyone in our lives have turned their backs on us, i think they dont know what to do, so they do nothing. its very sad. i have tried so many times to keep her friends in the loop but they seem to not respond. their actions are on them, as i have tried. regardless i still have hope, i will stay with her no matter what, i will care for her and our kids. she deserves that. the movie the notebook reminds me of what our relationship might be in 20 years. i am just worried that through progress and time her brain might jump off track and shut down. i dont know what to expect long term. is she really getting better? or is she progressing before total and complete failure? will she live for 5 10 or 20 more years or grow old? i love her.

  31. chanchal says:

    My uncle suffered a cardiac arrest on 02/06/2013 and had a brain injury..doctor says there is no more medications on this..its completeley in hands of god..& a miracle shud happen..and now he is in coma stage…he is like my father..we all are waiting for him to come back to us ..while reading your blog feeling soo relaxed..n hope again lightened in me..He will be back!
    THANKS JANET…for this wonderful enlightening message…

  32. Velma says:

    In April 2010, my husband age 52, had an heart attack and was diagnosed with anoxic brain injury. I immediately retired to care for him. Unfortunately he didn’t receive the immediate care I now know he should have received. Last year he received medications, amanadine, ambien and diazepam. He recently was placed on dantrium. These meds are suppose to help him with his brain injury and muscle tone. He receives rehab in the home. I was told he can’t go into inpatient rehab until he can move on his own. I dont understand it. With prayers from church members, family and friends I am hoping that he gain at least half of what your loves have achieved. I never heard of anoxic brain injury until my husband incident. I thank you for sharing your experiences, it’s very encouraging.

  33. This is a great blog, would you be involved in doing an interview about just how you developed it? If so e-mail me!

  34. Deirdre Ford says:

    I found these stories very helpful. My dad was 83 years old with a bad heart and COPD when he went into the hospital for a routine hernia procedure. In spite of his health problems he was fully functional and healthy for hs age. His mind was sharp. He suffered cardiac arrest on December 27th. We were told that my father had passed away that day but they worked on him for 20 minutes and were able to bring him back. After weeks in intenstive care he was stepped down to a regular room and eventually rehab but the toll that the cardiac arrest took on him already compromised health was devastating. Once able to do everything himself he became unable to feed himself, dress himself and go to the bathroom on his own. His personality changed and he became angry mean and potentially violent to staff members or anyone that he felt antagonized by. It broke my heart to see him look at me without seeing me. His eyes were dead. Sometimes he would remember me and say he loved me but most times he was quiet and talked of things that happened long ago. Watching him deteriorate and lay in bed day after day was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. Eventually he passed away. By the time he did he bared little resemblance to the vibrant, loving, caring man that we knew and loved and while I am grateful for every extra moment we got to spend with him at I am not sure whether it was the right thing to do to bring him back to life. I have found some comfort in reading these posts to see how others have expeirenced what our family experienced. God Bless you all.

  35. Doreen says:

    My husband was 70 years old and had a history of heart disease. A mitral valve replaced, pace maker, arithmia, But nothing could have prepared me for the cardiac arrest Oct23 /09 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Luckily there were security people there that had just taken the AED training and brought within 5 minutes the machine to help them as they gave CPR and waited for the ambulance to arrive. They stabalized him and send him to hospital where they put under a cold blanket to help reduce brain damage. He slowly came to in ICU and we were so lucky that he had great doctors and nurses to care for him. He stayed in hospital for 5 weeks and during that time it was noticed that he could not do somethings for himself. He was fine when it came to clothinghimself andhis hygene, but he did not always remember his family. I was happy to ssee he knew me his wife but he became very dependant on me and when I was not there he would become frantic and frightned and cause quite a stir. About 5 weeks later a neurolgist came to see him and gave him a test to see what his disablities were. He knew who I was, yes. He could follow simple directions like taking a pen from her hand with his left hand and puttin it on his right knee etc. About 30 questions in all. It was found that he qualified to go to the 8 weeks rehab for brain injuries at a Rehab hospital in Winnipeg. Thank goodness. After 8 weeks there, we went once a week to Deer Lodge Centre for day hospital and rehab for 4 months. He so despratley wanted to get his drivers license back. ( I was letting him drive the country roads)
    He studied with me and did homework we got a luminosity membership online and did all kinds of tests on the computer for him. He did not manage to get his license. He had to put his loving dog down that same month and I later found out his daughters were meddling in his financial affairs, even tho I was his power of attourney and doing a fine job! This caused him more heart ache and worry. As time went on his heart started to not funtion as well and his organs began to fail. toxins in his blood ( in the elderly , it can be quite significant) caused him to become parinoid, angry, halucinate, and even a little aggresive. My husband past away in ICU 1.5 years after the cardiac arrest from renal failure. they induced a coma and slowly took him off of the supports that he was on for his heart and kidneys. I was not ready to say good bye. I thought that he would recover from this like he recovered from so many other serious health issues. He had been in ICU for 2 weeks and he had come out of a induced coma to speak with me and tell me he loved me and the next day I came in and they said they could not do anything more that I had to make a decision. Well his daughters were there and I knew because we had spoken about it many times in the 20 plus years that I was married to him that he would have wanted me to not let him linger. That was a tough decision. But really I had no choice.

  36. Cindy says:

    On January 13, 2013 my six month old grandson with a history of Down’s Syndrome/AV Canal Defect/Laryngotracheal malesia/ grandson suffered respiratory arrest that progressed to cardio-pulmonary arrest two days after he was discarged from having a supraglottoplasty performed. Unfortunately, the paramedics arrived and chose to perform BLS on him to the emergency room. The paramedics did not assess his airway with their laryngoscope blade although both of them had known about his history of respiratory compromise. If they had, hopefully they would have been aggressive in intubating him after seeing the big glob of mucous and small amount of milk that was present in it when the ER physician visualized his airway and Lucas would have not suffered global brain damage as a result of being anoxic for at least 20 minutes. The AHA should evaluate their 2010 guidelines and NOT place airway secondary in infant cardiac arrest since their statistics reveal that most cardiac arrests in infants are initiated by respiratory arrest for Advanced Level Providers. My Downs Syndrome grandson fought for his life sevral times after his birth. He survived a blood alcohol level of .298, three times the legal limit for an adult, after being poisoned by his father with alcohol while in Ochsner Jefferson Hospital waiting for his open heart surgery on October 27, 2012 and then went through open heart surgery in early November without problems. My daughter and her father did their best to maintain Lucas’ life prior to their arrival. The paramedics knew his respiratory history. They should have been more assertive and utilized their advanced level skills as they were trained to do. I can attest to this because I’ve been one for over 30 years. I am now unalbe to continue work because my daughter needs me to help her care for her brain damaged infant. It really tears me apart having to watch my six month old grandson “posturing” with the look of “pain” on his face and us not be able to do nothing for him. According to Childrens Hospital New Orleans Neuro Lucas is too young to be prescribed the medicine to counteract the posturing and also that little research has been done on infant anoxic brain damage; therefore, little rehab that is offered to them as a result. The paramedics were fast to boast that they got a “pulse” back, BUT Lucas will never be my grandson who had “just’ Downs Syndrome again. They took what little he had left and ruined that. I will hold them accountable until the day I die.

  37. Michelle says:

    My six year old daughter Mia had come down with a flu virus on a Friday. She was lethargic, didn’t want to eat or drink. September 9th, 2012 I had come home after running a quick errand. She was laying on the couch with my 14 year old son sitting beside her. She got up as soon as I got in the door and said she couldn’t see then ran right into one of our dining room chairs. Next thing I know she went into what looked like a seizure. A call to 911 and about 20 minutes later we were in the ER. A doctor heard an abnormal heartbeat. They tried various methods to stabilize her heart, but then she went into cardiac arrest. She required 4 hours of CPR and heart massage. She was place on ECMO then LVAD after about 5 days. Neurology was not very hopeful because she was not responding and brainwaves were very slow during the EEG test. The cause of all of this? Myocarditis. I had no idea that a virus could get into the heart.

    After about two weeks, Mia began to show resistance in limbs during physical therapy. After 3 weeks she started opening her eyes & tracking people. After an MRI, we were told that her speech and walking would be affected. Mia then spent the next couple of weeks in the step down unit & then went to the rehab until November 21st when she was released.

    She has since regained her walking. She regained her speech as well as her ability to read and talk. We still have therapy for her short term memory as well as her ability to focus on a single task. She has been back in school since early December 2012. Her speech therapist has said she will probably be in therapy for another 6 months. She is also at the tail end of Physical and Occupational therapies.

    I guess my biggest heartbreak is remembering the “normal” child before the event. I am so thankful for what she has recovered, but we still have a road to walk.

  38. Nancy REYER says:

    On may 28,2011 my son age then 14 was burned 40 percent of his body with third degree burns from a fire liquid candle that exploded and set him on fire. Nine days later he went into cardiac arrest and suffered 13 minutes lack of oxygen. He is now a burn and TBI patient at Blythedale Children’s Hospital in NY . I live with my son I quit my job and he is now my job. I was told they paddled Michael twice to bring him back. He was a normal child this put him in a vegative state now 17months later he has progress though it has been emotional painful journey to witness your
    Only child go through. Michael does not talk, follow things with his eyes he does not walk and thank God after being on life support is only hooked up now to feeding tube. We continue to pray and try anything to give him now 16 some kind of utile with hope

  39. Ken says:

    I wonder how much research has been done on cardiac arrest patients who have ROSC (Return of Spontaneous Circulation) and how many have brain damage. I hope we have more of this. Am I opposed to doing CPR if someone needs it? NO! I am glad that Ms. Cromer has asked us to learn CPR. It is a loser’s attitude to assume it won’t work. The more people know CPR and the more techniques improve the fewer people we will have suffering anoxic brain injury.

    A former coworker of mine had a son who experienced anoxia due to an asthma attack. He was expected to die in the hospital that Christmas. But though his recovery from the brain injury has been slow I don’t think his mother would want him to die.

    Let’s research what patient populations will likely survive intact from resuscitation. We need to let doctors (not bystanders or EMS) have more leeway in discontinuing resuscitative measures if they see the outcome as suboptimal.

  40. Laura says:

    My story is a bit different. It was my 90 year old father who had a massive heart attack as he climbed out of the community swimming pool. His friends tried to do CPR. Within a few minutes (witness estimates vary hugely) the fire truck arrived and they began CPR. When the ambulance arrived the EMTs were still not able to get a pulse with CPR and had to shock him twice to restart the heart. All this took at least 8 to 10 minutes.

    He is/was a very young 90 and very proud to be living on his own, still driving, working out at the YMCA every day. He had an DNR but no one in the ER knew. They called my brother who lived within a 1/2 hour. By the time my brother arrived my Dad was on a ventilator. They decided to reduce his body temperature for a few days (he was comatose when he reached the ER) and then warm him up, hoping he would come out of the coma. I lived over 1000 miles away and arrived 3 days later when they were warming him.

    I sat and waited. Within a day he had come out of the coma but had loss of arm and leg on right side, was unable to maintain breathing without the ventilator (it took a week before he could breathe on his own). We were prepared for the worst and amazingly, despite developing pneumonia, thrush, and a yeast infection, he seemed to be regaining some cognitive abilities. Sometimes he was lucid – threatened to sue the hospital and told everyone about his son who is a lawyer. Described where his condo was for the nurse. He remembered most names. He thought I was his sister. Never got my name and when I went home 3 weeks later he had given me the name “Shad Roe”. Who knows.

    We are 2 months into the “rehab”. His physicians say he will always need 24 hour nursing. He can’t feed himself, needs to wear diapers, can’t stand, rarely knows anyone but seems to remember his youth well. Some days he sits slumped in his wheelchair picking at the vinyl covering. Sometimes he doesn’t realize he even has people in his room. While he still has a weakened aortic wall the cardiologist isn’t too worried about it.

    After many CAT scans, MRIs, tests tests…the general opinion is that what we have now is what we are going to have. My brothers and I know that he should not have been revived. His friends who were there at the pool and gave him CPR have sobbed and apologized to us for saving his life.

    He was old but proud of his independence, still the life of every party, had just started going on cruises and seeing the world. To see him in his current condition is killing us. He never even took prescription drugs, just vitamins. If he was aware of his condition he would hate this life. But now there is nothing we can do but wait – for either a miraculous upturn in his condition or another cardiac event to end this mess.

    As my brother says “Our father died on August 5th” (the day of the heart attack). And as I said to my husband “I’ll never get to talk to my father again”.

    From reading the blog posts I can see that many times there is a favorable outcome despite the anoxia. But as we all age that window of recovery shrinks. The ER never should have taken such extreme measures. The doctor told me that normally with anyone over 80 they do the minimum but because my Dad was in such amazing shape for his age they tried for that miracle.

    While I’ve written up a “Living Will” and distributed copies to my family (and the rest of the world) there is still the chance that it will not be known until it is too late. For now my brothers and I just sit beside his wheelchair in silence or help feed him lunch. So much for a dignified death.

    Sorry to be so negative. I’m just waiting for the nightmare to eventually end.

  41. Elaine says:

    My son suffered cardica arrest at age 41 in June, 2011. as a result he “died” twice and was revived but was left with oxygen deprivation to the brain. It is simply amazing to me what is NOT known about anoxic brain injury- or brain injury period. His attending doctor (from the best rehab hospital in the country), said that the brain is a “big black box” and they will know how he is doing by his responses. We know so much about so many things, yet so little about the brain and it’s complexities, much less acquired brain injuries.

  42. Robin says:

    My husband Mike suffered a cardiac arrest on 2/18/11 on the cath lab table shortly after his cath was completed and he was told he would need double bypass surgery the following Monday. He was down for 55 minutes until full perfusion was restored. Subsequent to it, while in ICU for weeks afterward, he suffered uro-sepsis, septic shock, a retro peritoneal bleed and associated hypo-volemic shock which resulted in new, ischemic damage to the basal ganglia of his cerebral cortex. His story is outlined in my blog at the website address attached to this post…as well as a chronicle of our daily lives as we try to sort out what we have been given and move forward with grace and joy. Janet, thank you for your writing. I find something pertinent and helpful to me every time I read.

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