Resuscitating Life after Cardiac Arrest

Resuscitating Life after Cardiac Arrest by Janet Cromer

April 19, 2011

Brain Injury Blog by Janet Cromer

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 and her blog at

112 responses to “Resuscitating Life after Cardiac Arrest”

  1. Cristina Dougan says:

    Back two years later, progress is so slow.
    My daughter had a car accident that did not result on a tbi, instead she went into cardiac arrest and had a anoxic brain injury.
    Talking about how little is known about anoxic brain injuries.. even in this website there is so much about tbi, often i feel left out of the mainstream concern… so little research because there so few cases.
    My 19 year old daughter’s main remaining disability is her action myoclonus, too many muscles triggered when trying to move.. she needs a wheelchair and help with anything requiring the use of her hands. Cognitively she has a bad memory and gets tired easily but you can live with that..
    Anyway just venting here.
    Thanks for listening

  2. Hello,
    It is a blog section of awesome and expensive information helping.
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    Need Help!

    My Mother aged 52 was having a severe neck pain & was admitted to Jehangir Hospital in Pune.After MRI reports we got to know that there is a lump or pus which was growing in her neck & she would have to be operated as soon as possible.After a lot of thinking we agreed to get her operated.As she was a diabetic we were still worried about this but haven’t imagined what would be coming would be the worst phase of our life.

    On the operation day she was operated on ~200 diabetes reading which they tried to bring down from 300.The doctor said it first priority for her to get operated in order to remove the pus.Sadly she suffered cardiac arrest in the operation theater as soon as she was given anesthesia by Dr Ghorpade .Docotor Rajesh Chavan done tracheotomy & putted her on ventilator.To our findings she suffered 5 mins cardiac arrest which the hospital tried to say to us 3-4 mins.Even my elder brother was approached by someone later to end the life support because they were knowing the patient is gone.But we were not able to believe & were in shock after all this happened.I rushed to hospital & was not able to even recognize my mother after 2 days.It could be the due anesthesia effect or may be she was in bad state that’s why.

    We had a lot of arguments with hospital on this case & now I would say they took this case more seriously & had a lot of planning before taking her to the OT second time.Because we are not VIP & simple middle class people so this planning was not done earlier.After 2 days Mother was operated once again on ventilator & the operation was successful.I personally think if she could be operated 2 days later after controlling the diabetes she could be saved but that time we all consider our doctor as a god & depend on the advice.

    At least the pus was removed she had a lot of fever spikes after the operation & later ventilator was removed too once she got her normal breathing back.Now we were with neurologists regarding her brain damage due to cardiac arrest.She had Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalitic brain injury due to the cardiac arrest.My mother was in coma for few days & later she progressed to vegetative sate.There were very little signs of improvement but we were keeping our faith & belief to get her back.3 months passed & we were told to take our patient back to nursing care or to any other hospital from the Jehangir hospital administration as they think she need nursing care more.That was very inhuman behavior from them & we were very sad about that.We took her to Shyadri Hospital Bopodi for further neurological & physiotherapy treatments but eight months after she suffered low BP due to the negligence of the staff at Shyadri I would say but we don’t have any proof for that.The patient was already had one death in jehangir initially so i would not blame shyadri staff at all.

    To all this 8 months we were mentally & financially disturbed & most importantly we lost our mother who was backbone of our home.We took medical loan after my bajaj insurance of 5 Lakh was gone in 15 days.We had home loan too & all got into pending due to this tragedy.We are in loss of financially an amount of 43-45 Lakhs due to this tragedy & we are still trying to recover.By God’s grace we are having our Job’s intact & we took a lot of leaves too for attending the hospital.My company Symantec was very supportive.Even the same with my Brother.I would be happy if i could be helped a little to compensate the loss that i faced.I wish no one in life should feel the financial problems in bad times.You don’t realize unless you face it.

    Thanks for reading my post.God bless you all

  4. Laura Tidwell says:

    Wow, as I read your story I was reminded how fortunate I am that my husband’s cardiac arrest had quick assistance. God bless you for sharing your story. I still have tears in my eyes! My husband fell out at work and people panicked. Because of his agonal respirations, they thought he was still breathing, even though he had no pulse. When the paramedics arrived, he was blue. They immediately placed the AED on him and started CPR. He was shocked two times and CPR was done for approximately 10-15 minutes. They said they have never had someone sit up on the way to the ambulance but he did. His first question was what happened? When they told him, he said “No, shit?”.. That’s probably not appropriate but I always get a kick out of it because that’s so “him”. Anyway, he was in ICU for a week and we were told he had no brain injury from the CT scan that was done in the ER and we were so thankful. From eyewitnesses, we think there was probably 3-4 minutes without real breathing or oxygen being pumped. He has said there are parts of his job he doesn’t remember how to do over the last year or so. He also has moments where he isn’t as sharp as he used to be. It’s almost been two years since his heart attack and this seems to be worsening. He passed out last month two different times and was really confused. We went to the ER and were told all was fine. I still know he isn’t himself and we made an appointment with his MD who got another CT (it was normal again) and has referred him to a neuro. We are awaiting that appointment. In the meantime, I was looking for people who might have had similar stories. Thanks for allowing me to tell his story. I hope if anyone sees this and has any knowledge of similar type symptoms, they will reach out to me.

  5. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Linda,

    I send you my heartfelt condolences on the loss of your daughter. Such a shock, and such a loss. Your compassion and generosity towards others will touch many lives. In the bog world of brain injury,those who suffer a hypoxic or anoxic brain injury make up a smaller group. However, every brain injury patient deserves the best medical care and rehabilitation. We learn so much from each other, and sustain each other in hope and courage. Thank you for reaching out.
    Janet Cromer

  6. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Tony,
    I’m so sorry about your Uncle Mike. Mike is fortunate to be surrounded by people who love him and can hold on to hope on his behalf. I can understand why your grandfather feels guilty, because we all wish we could have prevented bad things or had a crystal ball to know the best thing to do. However, your grandfather did his human best, and it’s good that your family understands that.Perhaps he would like to talk to a hospital social worker or psychologist. As you already understand, Mike has a long and rocky road ahead of him. It might help him to hear your voices talking to him in calm, simple, sentences, and to let him know you are there. I will keep Mike and your family in my thoughts and prayers.
    Janet Cromer

  7. Tony knight says:

    My uncle had a massive heart attack just last week as a result of a 100% blockage in the widowmaker artery. I know that is not the proper term however that is what we keep getting told. He went without o2 for approximately 25 minutes. My grandfather drove as fast as he could to get him to the hospital and he feels really guilty for not being faster. My uncle kept complaining about arm pain shooting down his left arm all day. My grandparents offered to take him but he refused many times. He suffered an anoxic brain injury to which we do not know the extent as of yet. My grandfather did all he could but he still blames himself for the incident. I wish he would believe us when we say my uncle wouldnt be alive at all right now if not for him. The doctors say it doesnt look good because he isnt really coming to. His eyes open and he has fits sometimes but they all say it is normal. I dont know if i agree i keep thinking that has to mean that he is fighting. Ive seen many stories on here about people coming back and people not. I hope that he comes back from this. Thank you to many people on here that gave me some form of hope! Please keep my uncle mike in your thoughts. Many people love him and want him back more than anything. Thank you for reading my story.

  8. Linda says:

    My 30 year old daughter went to the Emergency room a year ago, after medication she had been given for Pneumonia did not seem to fully take care of her symptoms. She texted me that they were going to admit her for tests and treatment, and I texted back that I would come visit in the morning. Sometime before they admitted her she suffered a cardiac arrest, and suffered severe in hospital anoxic brain damage and died 5 days later. The hospital said they gave aggressive CPR upon discovering she had collapsed, and revived her after 18 minutes of CPR, however she never regained consciousness. I wish every day that she had survived, and as I read your stories I feel joy for you that as hard as the recovery is, that you or your loved ones have been given the opportunity to attempt recovery. I wish you all the very best and will check in to see how everyone is doing.

  9. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Christina,
    What a horrendous experience you, your daughter, and your family have shared. I hope that you have family, friends,and professionals to sustain and support you during this overwhelming time. We are not qualified to offer medical advice on this blog,and I’m sorry that I don’t know specific resources for the problem with myoclonus. You might ask the medical team if there are other neurologists or psychiatrists (rehab doctors)in your area who could consult with her team. I will hold you in my thoughts and prayers.

  10. Cristina Dougan says:

    This is the first place I have found where I find stories I can relate to. My teenager daughter had a car accident 3 months ago. The car flipped, she came out and the car ended on top of her leg. Miraculosuly it did not smash any other part of her body. She was talking with a person who sat by her until the ambulance arrived. When they lifted the car she went into cardiac arrest (not sure why). The EMS was right there but we think her brain must have been at least 3 minutes without oxygen. She got CPR and got intubated and I do not know why she did not receive hypothermia… Her anoxic brain injury damaged her cerebellum. We did not know that because any imaging, CT-scans and MRIs came back normal. But she developed myoclonus (jerk movements) almost immediately. They sedated her while fixing her leg at the ICU and then they started removing sedation, which brought back the myoclonus while in a vegetative state. They gave her antiseizure meds which had their problems (high ammonia levels). The myoclonus continued as she moved into a minimally conscious state, and finally she emerged about 7 weeks after the accident. She still is on strong meds to control the myoclonus. The myoclonus affects her in every way: can’t talk, can’t swallow and can’t control moving hardly any part of her body. It is very debilitating. She is receiving therapy and she seems to be regaining some control as weeks pass by, but very slowly. I cannot find survivors with anoxic brain injuries who survived with myoclonus. If you know of any please let me know.

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  17. Tonia says:

    12/18/2016 at 330am my aunt collapsed, stating she couldn’t breathe. My Uncle and cousin began chest compression via the 911 operator. It took the ambulance at least a good 20 minutes to get there due to the road conditions. I do believe if memory serves me correctly that she was breathing on her own at the hospital, however they put her on life support and began the therapeutic hypothermia.
    On Sunday afternoon when I got to see her she was still having a lot of eye blinking movement, they said seizures…
    They continued the sedation/heavily medicated and then 6pm on Monday they began the warming process. There was still no known progress….
    A CT scan showed a tiny spot on her heart indicating cardiac arrest. They ran another EEG yesterday and compared that with the EEG upon her arrival. An MRI was also done, which dr.’s stated had to much damage for her to ever recover. Senses lost would be sight, memory, control of movement…

    Today they removed the ventilator at 10am and she is still with us. I continue to pray for that Christmas Miracle and our Sweet Loving Aunt of 51 comes back to us.

    For any of you that have had this experience, were your loved ones noted as having brain death? Were you told that there will never be any recovery that there was just too much damage??…but then they did recover??? Is there hope??? All this just seems to fast too soon….it hasn’t even been a week. My heart is just breaking …

  18. Anthony says:

    My mom suffered a stroke or a heart attack I really don’t know. It was December 21st 2016. I was already on my way to see her to tell her about my new job. I was around the corner when she called me and told me she wasn’t feeling well. Good thing I was so close to her because when I got there she was pale and and was very weak. She also stated that she felt like she felt before when she had a heart attack. I instantly called nine-one-one. The paramedics came and they were so professional and caring. We went to Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore. I followed the ambulance in my own car and I realized that I was blessed to be there too call 911. As they took her in the emergency room she went into cardiac arrest. The hospital security told me that it would be 20 minutes before I could go in the back to see her. Within 3 minutes they told me to go back there because my mom was screaming and yelling for her son. I was confused because she could barely lift her head or arms at the house. We are blessed to have made it through this situation and she is doing fine now but I am searching for information on helping her fully recover from this situation. As I find out more information I’ve become more aware that each situation is different but all in all my mom basically made a full recovery and one Fell Swoop and I couldn’t ask more from God. I am so thankful. My mom used to ask me to hold her purse while she shopped since I was a kid. Always voice my dislike of holding her purse. As I stood in the emergency room I found myself again holding her purse. She went into cardiac arrest as she entered the hospital through the ambulance entrance. For that brief moment that we were separated she died and they brought her back. When she came back she screamed for me. I think she came back to get the pocketbook because she knew I was still holding it and she knows how much I don’t like it. But either way we are blessed and I appreciate everyone’s post and my heart goes out to everyone who’s posted on this site because I understand your pain and some I may never know the extent of. God bless all of you and continue to pray and stay strong. I hope this helps someone else like you guys helped me.

  19. Carl says:

    My uncle suffered a massive heart attack on the 16/12/2016. He said he was not feeling too well minutes before. He is a smoker but generally quite fit. He suddenly dropped and the ambulance took approx 10 minutes to arrive. They shocked him twice before they managed to bring him back. The following day he was taken to specialist heart surgeon and two stents were placed in his main arteries. Since then he’s been in a induced coma until today 20/12/2016. They have tried to ‘wake’ him up twice, unfortunately they say his reaction his not normal. There is no response with his eyes and only arms stretch but they quickly have to induce him again because his heart rate and blood pressure rocket up. Today they decided to open a trachial whatever its called for his breathing pipes. When they did a brain scan they initially said it didn’t look too bad but now they say that there must be something wrong in the brain due to the reaction he has when tried to wake him up. He’s 55 and a strong guy. Doctor’s say there’s not much hope but I keep on reading stories of people who have suffered something similar and yes its a long road to recovery but they survived. Just looking for some positivity here.

  20. Dear Amber,
    Thank you so much for your post and sharing your experience. While life may never be “normal” again for you and your family, it is the small steps of getting through each day and building hope that can make it possible to look forward rather than back.
    Marilyn Lash

  21. Amber says:

    I was going through all the posts written here and that brought back my own painful memories of my husband’s incident. He blacked out while working out on a threadmill. He was at work in another state. I got a call from his friend at work and then later from the nurse and the Cardiologist. They told me he had suffered a stroke. THey did an angioplasty and found he had 3 severe blockages. He was in coma for almost a month and was kept on a treatment called Hypothermia to preserve his organs. He came out of it but required severe therapy (physical, occupational) He had to wear a defibrillator. Later he had a Bypass heart surgery. They could not repair one of the blockages. As a result of all this he speaks with a loud voice and has difficulty sticking on to his job. He is on medication. It is tough when he is not able to work but all of us in the family take care of him the best we can. Prayers, going to church gatherings and just spending time together are some of the small steps we are taking to get back to normalcy.

  22. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Denise,

    My goodness, you have been dealing with so much traumatic stress and trying to hold your family together since 1992. Although it won’t change the situation, you deserve a lot of credit for making connections between your husband’s heart attacks, cardiac arrest, and surgeries and his personality and cognitive changes. Back in 1992, even until recently, doctors did not consider the effects of not getting enough oxygen on the brain, mood, functioning, and personality. It was considered good medical treatment if the patient recovered from his cardiac problems. It was good treatment, but did not go far enough. I’m not a psychologist and I can’t diagnose people, but it might be worthwhile to ask for neuro-psychological testing to find out your husband’s strengths and weaknesses, and whether cognitive rehab might help in a specific area. He would have to cooperate with the testing and rehab, so a psychologist might have a way to make it worth his while. Or not, unfortunately. Have you been in touch with the Brain Injury Association in your state? They might have resources for individual and couple’s counseling with therapists who know about brain injury. Sometimes a person can learn to modify how he verbally hurts people-if he is motivated. Sometimes medications can help too. My husband had some improvement with a combination of behavioral strategies and medications. Most of all, Denise, please get some more support for yourself. That could be counseling just for you, a support group (either brain injury or dementia), and respite time away from your husband doing something you enjoy or time with your sons. You deserve it and need it to counter all of this stress and anxiety. And please make a safety plan for yourself. When a person is nasty and mean and verbally aggressive towards others the potential is always there for physical aggression. Even if it’s never happened before, you need a plan for how to call police and a friend, and where you would go. Your own safety comes first. I hope you will continue to seek and find the resources you need.
    Janet Cromer

  23. Denise Baker says:

    I was searching for information about memory loss and brain injury after Cardiac Arrest, MI, and By-pass surgery and this popped up. My husband was a school bus driver in 1992, he was waiting to pick up kids after school to take them home, he felt a burning in his throat and then some chest pain he walked in to the school and asked for the nurse, she immediately called 911. The ambulance came and while in route to the hospital he coded, this was a BLS ambulance, they stopped along side the road started CPR, the ALS unit came, they had to shock him a couple of times before he came back. I met them at the hospital when he came in he was so gray I had never seen a person look like that, I was so scared. In the hospital they gave him the clot busting drug. He was in the ICU for several days. When he got better he had an angiogram and then 3 stents were placed. In March, he had his MI in February 1992, he said he didn’t feel right the doctor said this is normal after a heart attack you are going to be ok. My husband kept on until the doctor did a thalium scan and found more blockages, he was recommended to have triple by-pass which he had, he was on the heart lung by pass machine. My point is he changed but I didn’t realize how much he changed after the lack of oxygen when he died and then the heart lung by pass and surgery, he had some memory loss, but the worst is his behavior changes that I never attributed to all of his heart issues until now 24 years later. He does not have a filter on his mouth anymore he says inappropriate things to people, hurts family and friends feelings, starts arguments and does not think he is to blame for any of it he thinks we are all just thin skinned or just can’t take the truth. His favorite line is “if the truth hurts I’m sorry”. He have had way too many to count arguements with our son, who is now 44. We have a on again off again relationship with him and his wife. I love them all dearly, I do not know how to survive this, no one told us this could or would happen and no one understands. We are estranged from all of his brothers (3) because they cannot take his digs, hurtful words and his opinions about what they should do with their lives. Just this past weekend there was another blow up with our son and I am afraid this will be the last he said he cannot take it anymore, so I think I have lost him too now. To top everything off he has had 3 TIA’s because they don’t know what else to call them they were not considered strokes because they could not see any brain damage. He has been diagnosed with “early onset cognitive disorder” what the heck is that? He is on Namenda a medication for Alzheimers. He like to drink beer or wine and when he drinks it is 100 times worse, I have told him he shouldn’t drink not only because of how he acts but due to his medications, of which he takes a ton. Any recommendations or help would be helpful. Thanks for listening/reading

  24. Dear Cindy,
    I can hear the heartbreak in your words and am so very sorry for your loss. Words can not begin to express the depth of your loss. I encourage you not to second guess your decisions as you clearly acted according to his wishes and with sound medical advice. I made a similar decision after my brother had a massive stroke. While the waiting was agony in his final days, I considered withdrawing his life support to be my final gift to him as his life had he survived would have been so limited and damaged and not how he would have chosen to live.

    Please take your time to grieve for him and to grieve for the future with him that you have lost. I am glad that your mother is helping you through this very difficult time.

  25. Cindy A. says:

    My husband had a sudden cardiac arrest on February 5th around 4:10pm. Just 3 hours earlier he was at a Dr. Appt for a checkup. I will never understand how there wasn’t a sign. My neighbor was walking with him from the parking garage on the floor below us. Began CPR and called 911. I heard commotion and opened the door to find my husband laying there and was hysterical for I don’t know how long. 45 minutes with 5 shocks to get his heart back working. They cooled him for 3 days in attempt to reduce swelling but was diagnosed with anoxic brain injury, explained to me by several neurologists and ICU doctors that he would never wake up and if he did it would be after illnesses and he would never be the same. He was on life support 11 days.
    He had an advanced directive we filled out clear that if he was not “awake/aware” he didn’t want me and his family suffering. That form we filled out for a minor intestinal surgery 2 years prior and if not for that I would be even more of a wreck not knowing what he wanted. I will always wonder if I didn’t wait long enough. After 10-14 days the tubes down his throat with air and food would have to be inserted directly into lungs/surgery. His mom and I agreed not do have 2 surgeries just to keep him in that state. We were together 5 years and 3 months married for 2. He had turned 39 just a month prior. I’m grieving him, and a loss of future plans like babies, a house. I’ve read a lot about people waking up and I’m so scared the doctors were wrong. His widowed mother lost her only child but we have only gotten closer and she has been 1 of my biggest sources of strength.

  26. Janet Cromer says:

    Hello Robert,
    Thank you for your message. I can only imagine how hard you and your family have worked on your recovery to get to this point. I agree that it really matters to have people to communicate with who understand what you’re going through. Loneliness can be painful. Unfortunately, I retired recently and spend most of my time traveling to see grandkids, so I’m not a reliable correspondent.

    However, my late husband Alan, who suffered an anoxic brain injury, made some new friends,learned strategies and enjoyed socializing in our brain injury support group. I also benefited from sharing with other spouses. Alan said it helped his depression to have something to look forward to every day. Before he went to sleep he’d write down something fun or instructive to do the next day. He also practiced his hard-won cognitive skills every day for the 7 years he lived after his heart attack. He joined an adaptive sports program and was able to kayak, canoe, and hike. As he said “the normal things everyone does with other guys.”

    Alan could not return to teaching college, but he became a motivational speaker for rehab patients and professionals. He volunteered reading to kids at a pre-school, and during election season he held signs for our candidate.Alan developed a new identity as a craft builder. He painted sun catchers, made wooden boats, and built key holders. He found great pleasure in the creative process and by giving his projects to family and friends.

    I hope some of these ideas will be helpful to you. I wish you all the best.

  27. Janet Cromer says:

    Hello Sandra,
    What good new that your sister woke up! That’s a very important step after she has gone through so much. Your calm and friendly presence will help her. Recovery is a long road and every step is important to notice. If your sister has ongoing problems with her memory, speech, or understanding, you might ask the doctor if she can be evaluated for brain injury rehabilitation. Doctors don’t always think of rehab after cardiac arrest, but it can really help. All the best to your family!

  28. Dear Sandra,
    That’s such good news that she is breathing on her own now as that’s a major step forward.

  29. robert jensen says:

    Thank you for your blog.

    In February 2011, I had a sudden cardiac arrest. It took 75 minutes for the paramedics and ER to revive me.
    I was left with a permanent and fairly bad Non-Traumatic ABI, caused by my extended hypoxia.
    Before my cardiac arrest, I was 52-yo very successful sales manager. Afterwards, I became unemployed for life, and dependent on my wife. The BI has redefined me, and what I can or can’t do.

    It has been a 5-year struggle for me, with many ups and downs.

    I would be very interested in starting some kind of email dialog with you.

    Please let me know if you like this idea as well.

    Best Regards,


  30. Sandra Huerta says:

    Hi, my sister got her tube removed so she’s breathing fine on her own. Only thing is she doesn’t remember me, she can’t talk because of her sore throat. Its frustrating watching her. The docotr said it will take time for her to gain back her memory. I hope she does because I really my sister. Its her 9th day in the hospital. I hope my sisyer fully recovers. Shes my best friend and I miss her do much.

  31. Dear Sandra,
    I am so sorry to hear what your sister and your entire family are going through. I think that waiting is often the hardest part as no one can give you definitive answers. But it certainly is encouraging that she is breaking on her own. Even tho the tracheostomy can sound scary, she may be more comfortable.
    Marilyn Lash

  32. Sandra Huerta says:

    Me and my family are going through a hard time. My sister got a cardiac arrest on Friday 22 of April. Today it is Thursday the 28 of April and my sister is doing good with breathing on her own but has not fully woken up because the tube in her mouth irritates her and they put her to sleep. The doctor will give us the weekend and if my sister still does not respond thry will do tracheostomy on her 🙁 Our main concern is that she fully wakes up

  33. Glad to hear you are doing so well and thanks for sharing info that may be helpful for others.

  34. Catherine Felix says:

    I recently had to under go a pretty intense hip surgery surgery. The whole process leading up to the surgery was traumatic for obvious reasons. I don’t want to go into too much detail but during the surgery, my team used a FAW blanket called the Bair Hugger and it helped so much with my post surgical recovery. I credit the super quick recovery to the blanket. I was able to get back to exercising in no time. Here are some facts about the system

  35. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Dee,
    I apologize for my delay in responding. We had a technical glitch that meant my response did not post.
    First, I am so sorry for your loss of your mother. I send my condolences to your family. Second, You and your siblings have definitely been through a very traumatic event, witnessing your mother’s cardiac arrest and the EMT’s response. Have you heard of an acute traumatic stress response? After I witnessed my husband Alan’s cardiac arrest and initially inadequate CPR efforts on an airplane, I developed an acute traumatic stress response and kept reliving that hour when I tried to sleep. It’s not an uncommon effect when we’ve gone through more than the mind and body can handle or make peace with. I found it very helpful to have some sessions with a therapist who understood ATSR. She taught me how to manage the intrusive images and nightmares, and to calm my body’s emergency response. If your symptoms continue, you might want to consult a therapist.
    Second, it does seem that that the actions of the EMTs should be reviewed. When you feel stronger, you might consider writing a letter describing your observations and concerns, or asking to meet with the leaders. We can only try to make things a bit better for the next family in this terrible situation.
    I will keep you and your family in my prayers.
    Janet Cromer

  36. Dee says:

    Thank you to everyone posting on this site. My mom passed on Feb 17, 2016 after going into cardiac arrest on the evening of feb 8th. She was taken to trauma after having been worked on for 45 minutes and finally showing a pulse. I am still so shaken by what my sister and I witnessed in the minutes just before the 911 call and the moment we saw Mom quit breathing in her distress. The EMT’s had not begun a thing on her (several minutes) and one of them actually went outside to retrieve the oxygen tank that I guess they forgot to bring in with them. 3 EMT’s. It was so unsettling and frightening to see Mom gasping for breath while one of the EMT’s kept trying to ask her her birthdate and if she was in pain. my 7 siblings and I formed a half circle around her praying on feb 17th as it was our turn to release Mom and watch her transition into the arms of Christ. We are all believers, so we are good with God’s decision ( as much as we grieve). But we are not good with the apparent lack of service from the EMT’s. I am so tired already of reliving the awful moment I saw my Mom’s body just stop and her eyes fixate that Mon night of Feb 8th. Can someone help me and my family with how to proceed in the midst of our mourning. We appreciate all your comments, and respect all of you and your precious stories. Our loved ones mean the world to us, I know. There care and health is critical to our own care and health. I know this, too! god bless you, everyone. May the Lord smile on you and strengthen you as you go through!

  37. Janet Cromer says:

    Hello Rebecca,
    I apologize for my late response. I hope your husband’s CABG surgery goes well. My late husband Alan also underwent a 4 vessel CABG months after his MI, cardiac arrest, and anoxic brain injury. We were blessed that Alan came through without further brain damage and eventually felt much stronger and probably got more oxygen to his brain! My suggestion is to continue trying to get as much brain injury specific rehabilitation as possible when he is stable enough. Alan needed many months of cognitive therapy, and the SLPs taught me to carry over each lesson. Alan’s brain injury was too severe to recover fully, but cognitive rehab allowed him to have a better quality of life for the 7 years he lived. All the best to your family.

  38. Dear Rebecca,
    I admire your perspective. That saying “you never know until it hits you” may sound trite but it so true. My husband had a minor stroke and had to have surgery to remove the blockage a month later and we both found the waiting period until they could operate really stressful as we were so concerned that something else would happen. But it went well and he has fully recovered.

    I wish you all th ebest in this step of your journey toward his recovery. WHile all your lives may never be the same again, you are still all together and that gives everyone hope.

  39. Rebecca says:

    My husband (50) had a cardiac event while we were driving home Aug 2105. Luckily my daughter and I know CPR and the other daughter could call 911. That being said he still coded and the EMTs used an AED to get his heart going again. He spent over a week in ICU under heavy sedation before going to a rehab facility. It was about 1 month before the sedation began to really leave his body. We are at the 6 month mark now, he has CABG surgery next week for blocked arteries. He was on no meds prior to the event, a non smoker, non drinker and fit. It has been a slow 6 months, but he can walk, talk, read a bit, dress almost without help, kept his sense of humor, knows he has a lot of work to do to get back skills. The biggest thing for our family other than support, was knowing CPR, getting him transferred to a bigger hospital and taking it a day at a time. We are all nervous about the surgery, which has to be done, and we hope no further brain injury occurs. It is a very hard thing to go through seeing everything change in an instant with very uncertain outcomes. But it could be worse.

  40. Rekha Baptista says:

    Hi, I have been reading all the posts which has been very informative. My brother who is 57 has a Cardiac Arrest on Jan 13th 2016 and is still in a coma. He has a condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy for the last 6 years. He was in the ICU when he suffered the caridac arrest and it took his heart 3 mins to start pumping again. The doctors are trying to weane him off the ventilator and he was able to have this off for upto 6 hrs and yesterday when they took the tubes off he had a cardiac arrest again but they were able to revive him in seconds. He is moving his eyes and sometimes responds with a squeeze of his hand and clearing the throat. Has anyone experienced such a case and how long can he be in this condition. We had deep faith that the Lord Jesus will heal my brother

  41. Monique says:

    Thank you for the responses. My mother passed on January 12, 2016. They said her heart stopped and when revived , was very weak. Then lastly her heart stopped.

  42. Tamika Davis says:

    My mother woke up from the coma after 11 days so stay hopeful. She is currently in an Ltac that does not know how to treat her anxiety. She is weaning from a ventilator and this poses a problem. They keep giving her Ativan and I think it is making her worse. She constantly calls the nurses and occasionally says crazy things. She thought the patient across the hall had a car for a bed and once told me not to put a chair on my head. She also has short term memory loss. Is there anyone who knows how to treat this? In here, they just make fun of her and don’t have a clue about anoxic brain injury. Any advice would be great.

  43. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Monique,

    My heart goes out to you and your family. Making decisions on behalf of someone you love is one of life’s biggest challenges. I agree with all of the good advice in Marilyn Lash’s response. In addition, I suggest having a trusted friend or family member with you when you talk to the doctors so that person can take notes for you or remind you of questions to ask. Some hospitals have an ethics consultant on staff to help explore these decisions. It might help to recall any conversations you’ve had with your mother about what being severely disabled would mean to her, and under what circumstances she would not want to live. I will hold your family in my prayers.

  44. Dear Monique,
    I am so sorry to hear of your mother’s condition – this must be such a heartwrenching time for you and your family. I wish I could give you clear advice and guidelines but these situations are so complex that it is impossible. The best advice I can give you is to take the time to fully understand what the medical team tells you and advises, ask questions, not only about the immediate decisions to be made but the long term consequences for her quality of life. It is helpful to ask the medical team to name one person who can be your communication contact to follow up with questions, concerns and any doubts that you may have over the next several days as you will think of things after the formal meeting. I also suggest contacting the hospital chaplain or social worker for guidance and support as they have likley helped and supported other families in this difficult time.
    Marilyn Lash

  45. Monique says:

    First and foremost, I feel for every person and story on this page. My mother went to the ER on Sunday with back pains. Her blood pressure was about 300 and she has diabetes,and kidney disease. Monday while at the ER, she went into cardiac arrest and it took 15 minutes to revive her. The MRI on monday , we were told found she has brain injury all over. The machine is doing most of her breathing and she blinks her eye. They also say she reacts to pain sometimes. We have meeting tomorrow and I am just hoping that its not about letting her go. Please inform me on anything I should be aware of or any guidance. Thank you

  46. First, I am so sorry to hear of your husband’s serious condition. Watching someone, expecially a loved one, in a coma is incredibly hard. I suggest asking the docotr to explain the Glasgow Coma Scale to you – this is a measure used to assess the depth of coma based on responses in three categories of eye opening, verbalizations, motor movements.
    No one is really sure how much gets through to a person in a coma but we suspect that the person may be aware of sounds and voices and your husband’s response to your voice and his mother’s shows this. Keep talking with him as he clearly hears your voice. Families often see responses in loved ones that medical staff do not so hold on to hope.
    One word of caution is that coming out of a coma is usually a gradual process, not like waking up. Often patients go through a period of confusion and agitation as they become more aware. THis is often upsetting for families but it is actuallya positive sign of increasing consciousness. If the hospial has a social worker or chaplain, please contact them as they can give you support.

  47. teresa says:

    What are the signs that a coma cardiac arrest patient is waking up? And what are obvious good responses, compared to just reflexes. The ICU is confusing. My husband had cardiac arrest at kidney dialysis and went into coma. He overbreathes vent,b/p goes up when he hears meenter hid room. Cries tears when we pray for him or tell him how much I love him. He moves arm,legs head, and presses his fingers into my hand. He cried when he heard his moms voice on the phone. He responds to both his languages Spanish and English. But still the ICU says its just mostly just reflexes. Really???!! I don’t believe the icu

  48. Rasa says:

    thank you Janet for information, my dad had heart attack on 07/08/2015, and was dead for 25 min, he is 57, he is eating and drinking through mouth with mum’s help, able to move head, arms, and legs, he feels pain, of course he can’t talk, but mumbles something and all that he was able to do just a month after heart attack. to doctors he’s brain dead without any hope of full recovery but to us he’s very much alive and we pray and believe that he will recover, just of course he won’t be driving a truck anymore. But with a time, help and love, and God’s help he’ll recover. Thank you for you experience and information and hope that even after 45 min being dead you can recover.

  49. Tamika Davis says:

    My mother is currently in the ICU on a ventilator and was removed from sedation today. She had cardiac arrest on August 13. I need advice cause she is 68 and is not waking up. She was on like the heaviest sedation cause she was fighting the vent for several days. Well now they are doing an EEG tomorrow and saying she is appearing to have brain damage. They haven’t been telling me anything and then they come up with this. The EMS revived her pretty quickly after the cardiac arrest but I know it has to be within a certain time frame. The hospital is really callous and I want to have her moved. I just don’t know what to do and would appreciate all advice.

  50. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Jamie,
    I’m so sorry that your father and family have been through this catastrophic experience. I agree with Marilyn’s suggestions to get support and understanding about the choices you are facing. You could also ask if the hospital has an ethics team member you could talk with. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

  51. Melinda N. Black says:

    I have posted all of my husbands eexperiences on your Facebook site.

  52. Dear Jaime,
    I am so sorry – your dad has such a complicated and complex condition with the burns and the cardiac arrest. You are all in such a difficult situation and I understand how devastating this must be for you and your family. I encourage you to talk not only with the doctors, but also with a social worker or chaplain at the hospital as they may be able to help you think through your very difficult decisions.

  53. Jaime says:

    On 4/4 my parents’ house caught fire. My dad, who is 70, was not able to get out with the rest of the family. They estimated he was in cardiac arrest for 30 minutes, they revived him. He suffered severe burns in his lungs and trachea from the smoke inhalation. On 4/20 they took him off the respirator tube and put in a trach. Between 4/20-4/21 he was breathing mostly on his own, and using a cpap machine at night. By 4/22 he was off the cpap. He has had 2 eegs done before this, one with no one, and then one with family in the room, both tests showed no activity. He just got a third one finished, but they have told us numerous times that he’s probably not coming out of this. He does open his eyes from time to time, recently has been trying to focus them, so we think. He seems to resist a little if we move his arms, she sometimes when we tickle his left foot he flicks it. I just don’t understand how there can be no activity with all this going on and it’s just driving me insane. There’s talk about comfort care, but it drives me crazy that everything else is healing, he’s breathing with the trach, his heart’s beating. I don’t know what to do anymore 🙁

  54. Lori says:

    My husband died from the “widow maker” in Oct of 2011. He was dead for 10 minutes but the paramedics were able to bring him back. After having a stent implanted in his LAD artery, he was placed in a hypothermic coma to protect his brain and his heart for 24 hours and came back to us relatively unscathed. His doctors expected his heart to function at no more than 50% and it now is at 100%. He was supposed to have severe brain damage but he does not. HOWEVER… he came out of the event with short term memory loss and there are several events in our live that he doesn’t remember. We have been married for 33 years (since I was 18!). Since this heart attack my husband is gradually slipping away – I don’t know who he is. I feel like I’m married to a stranger. He doesn’t talk to me, he isn’t loving and affectionate like he used to be, he isn’t social, he isn’t motivated to do anything. Is this normal for a TBI??? I don’t know! We need help… I am so frustrated with him. I love him but I don’t know who this man is that I’m married to and many times I don’t want to be around him.

  55. Alicia says:

    I think this website is awesome. I found it informational, and was amazed at the similarities of some of the stories. My father will be 72 on May 17th. Other than a hernia surgery, and a replaced hip, has never had any other health concerns. He was rushed to the hospital May 2 around 11 pm. He was having trouble breathing while in bed and was non responsive. He flat lined in the ambulance. I am unclear as to how long he had not been breathing. (He had fluid around his lungs.) I was told anywhere from 4-20 minutes( depending on who the story came from). By the time he reached the hospital, amazingly he was breathing on his own. He was put on propofol, and slept for 2 days!… Those were the longest two days of our lives. We were unsure if he would wake up or what the situation would be when he did. When he did he was very confused. He did however recognize all his 10 children, grandchildren, brothers, and his wife among other people. This was a miracle. I always believed or had read that after 3-4 minutes without oxygen, someone could be brain dead. He is eating, and can hold a conversation, but at times drifts off to some other time period. He can tell you his name and birthdate, but not the year or where he is. He does movements as if he is eating all the time, and his head nods a lot. It reminds me of a baby. He says he has no pain, so that makes me feel a lot better about the situation. He was able to sit up and stand with help on the fourth day. He was not able to take steps or anything like that , (although in his mind, he was walking), but this again amazed me. He has always had a sense of humor, and it seems even more so now. He has slow speech, and it takes him a minute to gather his thoughts, but he has made great improvements since his admission. He is still in ICU, and will be moved to a regular room today, although we don’t know how long he will be there. We are unsure where to go with his after care plan, and have not been able to discuss this with the cardiologist. He has not been seen by a neurologist, or a pulmonologist. He cannot sit up or walk on his own, and cannot feed himself either. Overall he is making small progress, and we do not feel he is ready to go home. His home is not equipped for his condition, has no rails or raised toilet seat. It is mind blowing to see my father who has been so independent his whole life this way. He is till there, although not mentally all the time. But the bright side of it is that we thought we lost him, (we actually did for a little while) — but he is here, breathing on his own, talking, flirting with nurses(LOL), and making funny statements, putting smiles on everybodys faces. I do not know what will happen, if he will regain what he has lost, mentally and physically, not sure of care plan, or the road to recovery. I just know that my dad is here- THANK GOD!! He has improved and we are planning after care instead of a funeral. I will take him any way I can get him. Thank your for reading, and any input will be greatly appreciated.

  56. Thank you so much for sharing your story – you have given hope to many families as they struggle with the painful decisions that so many face when a loved one has had a cardiac arrest. I hope you father-in-law continues to improve.

  57. Erin says:

    People need to hear these stories. I have a back ground in healthcare and often take care of patients with anoxic brain injuries. I have seen miracles and I have seen heart breaking situations with this type of injury. Last week my job and home life collided. I’m not a story teller and its a bit long but please hold out for the happy ending. I’m hoping this helps someone else…..

    ….On 3/19/15 My 71yr old, very active, father in law (2nd father to me of 15yrs) had a cardiac arrest while running on a treadmill at the gym. CPR was started right away by an off duty firefighter and bystander. The gym had an AED, which was used twice to get his heart going. EMS arrived quickly, intubated him and got him to the hospital within 20mins. He was taken to the cath lab and found to have heart disease with many blockages, they were unable to perform any procedures. He needed a quadruple bypass, but that would have to wait.

    An hour later, he went to the cardiac ICU where cooling precautions were started for at least 24hrs. The machines take many hours to cool someone down and then many hours to warm them up again, overall this process took 2 days. He didn’t tolerate the cooling process, his vitals were too unstable and instead he was warmed to 36 degrees Celsius for 24hrs. He shivered a lot but eventually we asked to have the cooling pads removed after 72hours. His shivering stopped,he had a low grade fever that was controlled with Tylenol.

    On 3/22/15 They were finally able to wean him off of his propofol. He had been up & down on his dose for days (15mg/hr up to 80mg/hr). He started to open his eyes and move his head occasionally to sound but would not “wake up”. He responded to some pain stimulus and his pupils had some reaction but were mostly pinpointed. He was breathing above the rate on his vent. He had a CT scan that showed normal and an EEG that showed low brain function. Had a cough and a gag, which are good signs. The neurologist was going to give him an additional 48hrs to “wake up”. We were told it didn’t look good because he wasn’t waking up or responding normally.

    That night a series of events took place. He became very agitated while off his sedation and bit a hole in his breathing tube. He was still not responding appropriately and had to be re-intubated. After this the doctors placed him on heavy sedation which made it impossible to assess him neurologically. Some disagreements were made with his plan of care. The common idea among the hospital staff was that older people don’t recover like younger people do. As a family we felt because of his age, they were giving up on him. There is more to that story but the details are not pertinent enough to share at this time. Due to several events that unfolded we had him transferred to a larger more specialized hospital.

    On 3/23/15 we arrived at the new hospital and the team of ICU doctors and Neurologists we met were wonderful. They gave us hope for the first time in days. The leading Neurologists said ” Don’t give up yet… he will be delayed in his wake up process because of his cooling”. He said “lets give him time”. The doctors also said that because my FIL had gotten a pneumonia, his recovery would be delayed even more. He still had a fever, which is common after cooling but most likely from the infection in his lungs.

    For many hours he had to began a new process of weaning off his high doses of propofol. It was difficult because his head would shake rhythmically up and down every couple of minutes. If taken off completely he would become very agitated by his breathing tube. Yet he would not “wake up”. The doctors said despite that he should wake up on the low dose of propofol (15mg/hr) that he was eventually on.

    On 3/24/15 We were made aware of an article from John Hopkins Titled: Physicians wait longer for brain recovery after hypothermia Rx in cardiac arrest. I highly recommend anyone reading it, I’m glad we did.

    By 3/26/15 He had an MRI, that didn’t show major changes or concerns. Throughout the day he was becoming less agitated and the doctors were getting very little out of him when they did their assessments. He wasn’t making significant improvements though and The doctors were starting to get discouraged. They still wanted to give him a little more time but they were starting to prepare us to make a decision. I remember the doctors sitting us in a room and asking “what are his wishes?”. His wife decided to make him a DNR. We started to make very serious plans, for what we felt was going to be his death in the coming days. We were trying to decide on a possible timeline to withdraw. My FIL’s oldest son was coming into town in 2 more days, we felt he had to be here to help us make that decision as a family. We were all spending precious moments at his bedside…. We were starting to loose hope. We finally asked the doctors to take him off of the propofol completely, no matter how agitated he got. We wanted him at ZERO. We wanted to assess him ourselves, without sedation…. TO KNOW FOR SURE.

    On 3/27/15 Now off sedation for more than 12hours. He was opening his eyes more, yet he never focused on anything. He would move limbs occasionally but he had NO purposeful movements. They decided to do some trials to get him off his ventilator. At midnight we got a call that he was completely off the ventilator and breathing fine on his own.

    On 3/28/15 He was starting to focus more with his eyes. He mumbled what they thought were some words. We thought he said “Hey” and his name “Jim”. He had a very short attention span and could not focus his eyes for long. He still had a lot of the non-purposeful movements. We wanted so badly to communicate with him to see if he was really “in there”. The team urged us to let him rest.

    On 3/29/15 He was very tired. He mumbled “Hey” to us briefly as we arrived and did hardly anything but sleep most of the day. When he woke up it was as if he was in a dream or confused state. He would look around the room and pull at his nasal cannula. He would not follow commands and he would not talk. As little as he did, he seemed slightly better.

    On 3/30/15 Today I am proud to say, my FIL to the amazement of us all, has woken up a lot!!!! It has been one week and four days since his cardiac arrest. He has spent most of that time in a comatose state. Yet, this morning he was eating and drinking real food. Answering questions and asking them too. He was laughing at jokes, smiling and even watching TV. Compared to where he was yesterday, this is a huge improvement. Though his mind is still somewhat child-like, it is improving. He does have memory issues. For example he recognizes his wife but doesn’t know who his son is at the moment. His body is still weak and he cannot move with fine motor control yet. The doctors say with time he should continue to improve physically and mentally. We feel a miracle happened and it’s exciting to see this change. Yet we are fearful at the road ahead; he still needs heart surgery. We just pray we don’t have another set back.

    This whole experience has made me feel differently about my job and the turmoil families go through in those first few days and weeks. Even as a healthcare worker it was so difficult to make the right decision. I was so scared of the outcome. I didn’t think we could be blessed enough to have a positive outcome. I’ve learned through this experience that it’s so important not to give up too soon. I would urge families to wait a reasonable amount of time to be 100% sure they are making the right decision. Brain injuries don’t discriminate, they effect all ages. I will continue to pray for all the families going through this difficult process. Janet thank you and everyone for your posts. keep the stories coming.

  58. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Christina,
    My heart goes out to you, your friend, and her family. Nothing can prepare us for these tragedies or the shock that follows. The family might find it helpful to talk with a member of the ethics team, or a mental health professional at the hospital to express their ideas about their mother’s wishes about quality of life. It’s very hard to bear the responsibility for making such profound decisions for a loved one, but it is also among the greatest acts of love. I will keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers.
    Janet Cromer

  59. Christina says:

    Hello everyone I decided to write in this comment area for support. I am at the hospital and one of the best friends came I0 days ago suffering chest pains. A CT scan revealed her main artery had a rip going horizontal so they did emergency surgery. A couple of days later she is talking; the next day while in ICU she went into Cardiac Arrest. It took them 6 minutes to bring her back due to her open heart surgery. She suffered injury from the bring her back, so now they are telling us that she has 7 days to remain on the machine. She will need a trache, her brain has lesions due to the cardiac arrest, she had a stroke, can”t move, she’s now blind. Wow this is crazy. Her life took a complete 360. the kids do not want the trache because she would not want this life.

    Please if you know or have any positive thoughts from an experience such as this, give them please. We are truly devastated because it’s like the doctors do not think that she will be able to breathe on her own after they take her off of the machine. So as we see it, she only has the time left on the machine to live. I am praying for a miracle.

  60. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Vince,

    Your mother is truly an amazing lady.As Marilyn suggested, my article on hypoxic-anoxic brain injury has references at the end that might be useful. In researching the article, I was heartened to see that much more research is being done on the effects of anoxic brain injury than when my husband Alan had his cardiac arrest in 1998. More doctors are interested in the problem, although the doctors I interviewed said that rehabilitation is modeled on traumatic brain injury. A good rehab program will do more testing to identify the specific areas causing your mother’s symptoms and prioritize treatment for those areas. You might call your state Brain Injury Association/Alliance and ask for the names of neurologists and rehab specialists with an interest in HAI, at least to have a consultation. I have met many survivors of cardiac arrest over the last 15 years. Many benefited to some degree from early rehab, yet also had new problems emerge later. I wish you and your mother all the best. Every survivor needs a committed advocate!
    Janet Cromer

  61. Dear Vince,
    I am so sorry to hear of your Mom’s condition – what a hard time for all of you. There is an article by Janet Cromer on page 8 of the Summer Issue of Brain Injury Journey magazine that may be helpful – here is the link

  62. Vince says:

    My mom just suffered a cardiac arrest on 6-28 at 6pm and was without a pulse until 730pm. During that 90 min she was shocked 4 different times to get a rhythm and was placed on a ventilator. After 6 days we were told that there was no upper brain function according to the doctors. The only function she had was that of staying alive (heart beat and shallow breathing). We decided as a family to take her off the ventilator. 18 hrs later she woke up from her comma, all the doctors involved said she shouldn’t have survived. As of today her body has recovered from the heart attack (got a pacemaker), but her brain has not. She has extreme short term memory loss, and hallucinations. Are there any sites that I can visit to get more insight on damage done do to loss of oxygen and how to treat for possible recovery? I am optimistic on her recovery, after all she came back after having no pulse for approximately ninety minutes. The hospital staff are calling it a miracle. Thank you for letting me tell my story about my miracle mom.

  63. JanetCromer says:

    Dear Unknown,

    Your sister is very fortunate to have you to advocate and care for her. Alan made a “remarkable recovery,” yet he was always a man with a severe brain injury. He did learn to read and write at a third grade level, and he always needed supervision to keep him safe since his memory and judgment were impaired. Alan woke up from the coma days after his heart attack and cardiac arrest, but each person is unique, and each brain injury is unique. I do not give medical advice,but as a family caregiver I can say that making sure that the person receives rehabilitation at every stage may be helpful. You have already been involved for 8 months, so I hope you are getting lots of support for yourself. Healing is a long journey. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  64. Uknown says:

    Alan’s story encouraged me and makes me strong enough to fight for my sister. She suffered a ABI 8 months ago due to cardiac arrest. Alan had 5% recovery chance and he made a remarkable recovery. My sister has 50% chance of recovery, I am hoping she will be recovored soon. Currently she is in a vegatative state, no response on commands, no eye contact but she responds on touch. Can you please tell me how much time it took Alan take to respond.

  65. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Meenakshi,
    I’m sorry that your mother and family have been through so many serious medical problems even before this one. Your presence, attention, and talking to your mother might give her comfort. I am not a doctor, so I do not know of any treatments to further revive your mother. I can suggest that you seek support for yourself from family, friends, and professionals during this terrible time.Perhaps the hospital has a social worker, chaplain, or ethicist who can help you think through difficult choices. Just try not to do it all alone. I will keep your mother and family in my prayers.
    Janet Cromer

  66. Meenakshi says:

    My mother was uncomfortable on this Sunday 22/06/2014, since morning, she is a paralyzed patient. I thought she was having discomfort in taking breath due to blockage of her nostrils. We gave her a nostrils drop and after some time she told us that she is normal. But after 5-6 hours she was unable to speak and eat. Her lips turned blue. So we rushed to the hospital. She was breath and heartless at that time. After CPR doctors revived her, but now she is still in coma after 72 hours. She can move her leg and hands but is unable to speak and recognize us. There is no eye to eye contact.
    Today Morning after MRI, Doctors diagnosed that her brain is 90-95% dead and she is on ventilator with full support. She is having normal blood pressure, pulse rate, with working liver and kidney.
    At this stage we are helpless and not in the condition to take any decision. Kindly pray for my mother and suggest me any revival measure to save my mothers life.

  67. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Charlene,
    Such a shocking and life-altering tragedy for you, your daughter, and your family to go through. You and your baby girl are already showing budding resilience through her smile and your determination to get the best rehabilitation for her. It’s heartening that she responds, and perhaps recognizes, your voice and touch. Many children and adults make important strides in rehab, even if they cannot be the same person as before the brain injury. I found that holding coexisting emotions, such as grief and hope, helped me cope and become whole again. Please find and gather in all the support you can for yourself and your family. I will keep you in my heart and prayers.
    Janet Cromer

  68. Charlene says:

    On the evening of March 9 2014 my 14 month old daughter came down with severe diarrhea around 10:30 pm. I rushed her to her pediatrician at 9 the next morning. He immediately called the paramedics and she went into cardiac arrest in their arms. She was gone for 25 mins. Then again for another 10. Even though she was with medical professional the whole time and was immediately cooled she still suffered massive brain damage. She spent 10 days in the pediatric intensive care unit and her diarrhea become so severe she had to wear adult diapers then her kidneys failed and she was put on dialysis for a short while. During that first week the I was told that the odds of her surviving were very, very low. Once it was clear that she was not going to die and the CT scans and MRI came back I was told the the chances of her ever walking or talking again are very, very low due to the extent of the brain damage as it affects every area of her brain. We have been home for 3 weeks now and I am slowly adjusting to the routine of tube feedings and range of motion exercises she requires. I try to get her 3 year old sister involved as much as possible because they had a very close bond. It breaks my heart what this has done to my family. It has been so hard on all of us. I still cry everyday and probably will for a long time. My daughter has begun to smile though, a little anyway and responds to touch and voice. She will also stick her tongue out if you ask her to. We have our first visit with the rehabilitation clinic in June. Trying to stay positive and hoping for the best.

    I want to thank all of you for sharing your stories. Especially the other parents with a child that has experienced this. I don’t feel quite so alone now.

  69. Janet Cromer says:

    Dear Tina,

    What a shock for you and your family to experience. I’m not an MD, and I do not give medical advice. However, as a fellow caregiver I can say to make sure your father has several evaluations by a neurologist, preferably a brain injury specialist. You do know your father better than the staff can, so tell them exactly why you think he is in pain. We all need a family advocate to speak for us when we cannot communicate. Please seek support from friends or a professional for yourself also. This is a very stressful and traumatic time.
    Janet Cromer

  70. tina salian says:

    My dad had undergone bypass surgery on 6th may and was stable until 12 may 2014 and while we were shifting to the wards for recovery and he suffered cardiac arrest and is bedridden, he is moving his right leg however there is no other movement in hands and right leg, he opens his eyes but there is no sensation, I need guidance as my dad is in pain I feel

  71. 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.

  72. 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.

  73. 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

  74. 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.

  75. 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.

  76. 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.

  77. 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.

  78. 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.

  79. thanks for helpful suggestions and just excellent information

  80. 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.

  81. 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

  82. 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

  83. 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.

  84. 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!

  85. michael says:

    thank you

  86. 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.

  87. 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.

  88. 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

  89. 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

  90. 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.

  91. 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.

  92. 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

  93. 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.

  94. 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.

  95. 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.

  96. 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.

  97. 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???

  98. 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

  99. 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.

  100. 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.

  101. chanchal says:

    My uncle suffered a cardiac arrest on 02/06/2013 and had a brain 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…

  102. 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.

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

  104. 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.

  105. 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.

  106. 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.

  107. 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.

  108. 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

  109. 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.

  110. 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.

  111. 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.

  112. 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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