Frozen Back to Life?

When it comes to our health, sometimes it can be out of our control. No matter how healthy we are or how safe we try to be, accidents happen and our lives... can suddenly take a turn for the worst.

Lucky for us there are people who dedicate their lives to helping us get back on our feet. People like Dr. Joseph Varon(or as some like to call him, Dr. Freeze) from St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital is one interesting example. He is known for saving lives with an innovative hypothermic treatment used for brain dead patients.

Consider this: a body temperature of 98.6°F is considered normal. A temperature over 100.4°F usually means you have an illness, such as a fever.  With hypothermia, the body drops below a level needed for normal functioning. The diagnosis of hypothermia is made when the body temperature is measured at or below 94°F.  To "freeze" a patient back to life, Dr. Varon first lower his patient's body temperature below 94°F so that the patient's body can go into hibernation and protect the brain. After a few days, he warms the patient back up to a normal temperature. Miraculously, the patient then wakes up.

A few years ago, Dr. Varon tried his hypothermic treatment on Dan O'Reilly, a then 53 year old math teacher. Dan O'Reilly almost drowned while vacationing in Mexico. He was airlifted to the hospital and had gone 45 minutes without oxygen to the brain. Dan had almost no chance of survival. Dr. Varon, with nothing else to lose, lowered the patient's temperature to 89.6°F (32C) as a last attempt to try to save his life. Dan was kept in a hypothermic coma and warmed back up 3 days later. The treatment worked.

His most recent patient, Leslie Williams, collapsed on Christmas Eve while working at a nearby hospital. Her heart was revived, but her brain went without oxygen for about 30 minutes. Since Leslie had no brain activity, Dr Varon tried the hypthermic treatment on her as well. He had her body temperature lowered to 93°F. (33.89C). The following day, she was warmed up to a normal temperature and woke up. You can read the ABC local news story here.

Leslie Williams has to use a pacemaker and Dan O'Reilly has had to undergo physical therapy, but they're alive today, thanks to an innovative treatment from an innovative doctor from Houston.

The story of this amazing new therapy doesn't just stop with Dr. Varon. Today, Quickcool Technologies of Sweden is working on a revolutionary new way of implementing this hypothermic treatment. By using only a catheter device and a small balloon that goes into the nose and through the sinuses so that only the brain is cooled, Quickcool is looking to make this type of therapy easier and safer to use. All it needs is FDA approval. Think of the possibilities of how this type of treatment could change our lives.

You can read more about this amazing hypothermic treatment here.

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Jul 18, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

Dr. Varon

No exactly that way, Doctor Joseph Varon (actually José Varón) is a Mexican doctor who works in Houston. They, in Mexico, knew about him and that's why this person was sent to Houston.