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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
CNN Presents: Another Day Cheating Death
Aired November 26, 2009 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: The heart stops, the brain slows down and the body gives up, or does it. Forget everything you know about time of death. Witness three amazing people who miraculously beat the odds so you can, too.
"Another Day Cheating Death" starts now.
911: 911, where's the emergency?
DAD: Middletown Township.
911: What's the problem?
DAD: My son's not responding here. He's breathing. His eyes are open. I don't know what is going on. I don't know if he is snoring.
911: Is he awake and talking to you or not?
DAD: No, he's not.
911: I'm going to give you some instructions. Just stay on the line.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christopher was Chris Brooks, 22 years old, just months from college graduation. He was working construction part time and living at home with his family.
(on camera): When that 911 call came in Chris Brooks was dead, clinically dead for more than 15 minutes. His heart stopped beating shortly after 3:00 in the morning on November 15, 2008. But here's the thing. It wasn't the end. In his case and in several others that you are about to see death was reversible.
The night Chris Brooks died began innocently enough at this bowling alley in Morrisville (ph), Pennsylvania. A night out with a girl and his best friend (INAUDIBLE). Was he acting any differently at all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. He was acting himself. You know, he is always the life of party.
MOM: He's 22. He just got home from college to work for the weekend. He went bowling.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He plugged his cell phone in. And he woke me up. And he goes, it's me mom, I'm plugging my cell phone in. I said are you going to sleep here because you can sleep down here tonight.
GUPTA (voice-over): Moments later there was a noise from the couch, it sounded like snoring. But his mother knew something wasn't right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I came over and bent over and I went to smack his face and he went like this. And I put my hands down on both his arms and smack his face again. And I'm like, Christopher. What's the matter? I can't wake him up.
911: Is he breathing?
MOM: I don't know.
911: Is he breathing yes or no?
MOM: We can't tell. All right. We can't tell.
911: Tell everybody to stop screaming and listen to me so I can give you some help.
GUPTA (on camera): Did you know what to do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I watched TV. I started giving him mouth to mouth. That's all I know. And the 911 operator, he's the one who told me to stop mouth to mouth and straddle his chest and try to give him 60 compressions in a minute and then just keep doing that. Keep doing that, they're on their way.
911: Bare his chest and put both heels between his nipples.
MOM: Wait a minute. Bare his chest?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm screaming where are they? Where are they?
GUPTA (on camera): For everyone minute our brains go without oxygen our chances decrease by about 10 percent. Without help, Chris Brooks who had no heartbeat for well over 10 minutes had almost a zero chance of survival.
(voice-over): But luckily for Chris, his father was buying him some precious time. It was a new kind of CPR. It was pioneered right here in Arizona. It is a better way to save people whose hearts have stopped.
911: Fire department, what's the address?
WOMAN: My husband's not responsive.
911: OK. What's your address? GUPTA: This is a call to 911 in Scottsdale, Arizona. A 53-year- old man is in cardiac arrest. That is his wife on the phone.
911: OK. Is he breathing?
WOMAN: No, he's not.
911: OK. Listen to me. Someone needs to start CPR. Do you have anyone that can do CPR?
WOMAN: Say what?
911: Someone needs to -
WOMAN: Say what?
GUPTA: Listen carefully to the dispatcher.
911: You need to put him on his back.
WOMAN: He's on his back.
911: OK. Put the heel of your hand on his breastbone in the center of his chest.
GUPTA: And notice what you don't hear. There was nothing in there about breaths. There was nothing about giving breaths.
911: And you need to press straight down into his chest, OK?
911: And you go quick OK? Start counting for me.
WOMAN: OK. One. Two.
GUPTA: It is all about compressing the chest. And until just recently that would have been unthinkable but it does work. And here's why.
For the first several minutes after your heart stops your blood still has plenty of oxygen. As expert breath holders know, it is sort of this trick your body plays on the mind. Synchronized swimmers know this. You can go without breathing far longer than you think, far beyond the point where your body is starting to scream with air.
With practice, almost anyone can hold their breath for two or three minutes. Experts can go beyond seven minutes. Seven minutes without a breath. Think about that. But only if that oxygen gets to your brain, either pumped by your heart or by chest compressions.
Now, in most cases of cardiac arrest, that is still not enough time. What if you could buy just a bit more? What if you could slow the clock?
(on camera): So where are we right now?
DR. LANCE BECKER, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: So right now. We are in the center for Resuscitation Science Laboratories at the University of Pennsylvania.
GUPTA: And this is Dr. Lance Becker. He is the director.
BECKER: When I trained it was like, you are alive, you are dead. It was a sharp line between the two like going off a cliff. Now we know it is nothing like that. It is this gradual process. And that process means that there's an opportunity we can do something.
GUPTA: Some would say, look, don't bother with the mouth to mouth at all. You've got oxygen in your blood stream. The key is to move it around the body.
BECKER: The trick is get as many compressions in as you can. And then if you can get a little extra oxygen in, that's fabulous. But the priority is on those chest compressions.
GUPTA: Just so I'm clear, you are saying go up there and do it as fast and hard as you can? I mean, what are we talking, 100 times a minute.
BECKER: 100 times a minute with pretty much enough force that if you do it right, there will be sweat dripping off your nose after two or three minutes.
GUPTA: Your arm straight over the chest and you are -
BECKER: Straight over and push, push, push, push.
GUPTA What you are describing can save lives?
BECKER: It has saved lives.
GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Ben Babro oversees emergency services for the Arizona Department of Health. Now when he took over in 2004, the odds of surviving cart a cardiac arrest in Arizona were just as grim as anywhere else, less than three percent.
DR. BEN BABRO, ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: We said, you know, it is hard to do a lot worse than 97 percent of the people dying. We really said, you know, we have to do something better and we got to do something quickly.
GUPTA: One of the first things he did was change those CPR guidelines. For paramedics in Arizona nowadays it is 200 chest compressions in two minutes then defibrillation or a shock four times over before giving that first artificial breath.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got two minutes to learn to save a life.
GUPTA: For lay people in training courses like this and from 911 dispatchers the advice is even simpler than that. Don't bother giving any breaths at all.
911: And I want you to do is we are going to do compression only CPR.
GUPTA: And within a year, at Babro's changes, there was dramatic success.
BABRO: In fact, statewide the survival rate has more than tripled.
GUPTA: More than tripled.
In some parts of the state, it is even better than that. Last year with several new procedures including this better CPR, paramedics based in Flagstaff saved more than 1/3 of their cardiac arrest victims.
But back in Pennsylvania, time was still running out for Chris Brooks. Next, another novel treatment to try and keep him alive.
MOM: Come on, Chris. Come on, Chris.
911: How old is he? 22 years old?
GUPTA: Joan Brooks. Her son Christopher is dying right in front of her. Husband Joe is doing CPR.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then they say well do you have any heartbeat? Do you have any breath? No, I don't. Just screaming where are these people? It was taking - 8 1/2 minutes is a life time.
MOM: Oh, my god.
DAD: How close are they?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know if he can imagine how a second is an hour if you know what I mean.
MOM: I don't see them... they're here now.
911: Have the people come in.
MOM: Oh, my god. Come on, Chris. Come on, Chris.
GUPTA: It had been more than 15 minutes since Chris' heart had stop beating.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When the medics got here, I had moved over here and I was pacing up and down this couch here. I didn't watch them do their work.
MICHAEL HELLYER, PENNIDEL MIDDLETOWN EMERGENCY SQUAD: Start with the CPR. Adam who was my partner that evening shocked him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They hit him with the paddles and he jumps and they go, nothing. Well, that is - nothing is nothing. I don't know how to explain what nothing is but you don't - and they did it again and it was nothing.
GUPTA: You see, Joan had lost three family members in less than a year. She was frantic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I yelled at god, you took my mother, my dad and my brother you are not taking my son. And then I yelled at my mother and said, mom, you don't want your grandson up there. Don't let his happen.
GUPTA: Adam had to shock him again. At that time he went into an asystole rhythm which is flat line. But this is important. The paramedics didn't quit here. They gave Chris yet another shot of epinephrine and another drug, atropine. All of it to try and jump start his heart.
HELLYER: Adam shocked him and his rhythm converted into what we call a normal sinus rhythm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They gave him a needle in heart and all of a sudden I got a heartbeat. Out the door they went.
GUPTA: The paramedics rushed Chris to the local hospital. It is just minutes away.
(on camera): Chris Brooks isn't out of the woods. Not yet. Even after getting back a heartbeat. Most people who suffer cardiac arrest don't make it.
(voice-over): That's because when the heart stops a dangerous chain reaction is set into motion. It is triggered by a lack of oxygen. A chemical cascade in each and every cell resulting in an explosion of free radicals and other dangerous elements. Once this whole thing starts going, it's hard to stop.
DR. HARRY EMMERICH, ER CHIEF: Cell death will occur for 12 to 24 hours afterward which is why we induce hypothermia.
GUPTA (on camera): In other words, Chris' doctors would ice him down, lower his body temperature. Here's the idea. By cooling Chris they would put the process of death into slow motion.
What is it about hypothermia or cooling that seems to make a difference?
BECKER: This is one of the things that scientists love to argue about because we are not exactly sure. But what we know is it does a lot of good things in the setting of acute injury. So your cells don't need as much oxygen. That is good when your are deprived of oxygen.
GUPTA (voice-over): So doctors wrap up Chris in this special cooling blanket. But they also realized something else he needed to be even colder and they needed a more experienced team to do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The absolute best place for him and the best chance he had for a full recovery was to be at the University of Pennsylvania.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We accepted the transfer and we got him here by helicopter as quickly as we could. Chris had been down for quite a while. In these sort of situations people often have crippling brain injury.
GUPTA: You know, I would have thought Chris Brooks would have had a terrible brain injury as well. But a team was fighting back. How? By cooling his body temperature below 90 degrees. Now, on top of the extra minutes that Chris got from the CPR, it was this cold that might buy a few hours. Would it be enough
You're looking at the Life Flight chopper with Chris inside. This photo was taken by his father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I took my camera out and took a picture of them as they were leaving because I couldn't go with them to the hospital and I have - I was by his side the whole time.
GUPTA: While cold was helping Chris Brooks, that very same cold can also kill.
I went on a mission to see what hypothermia is really all about.
GUPTA: When you look at pictures like these, death probably isn't the first thing that springs to mind. We are north of the Arctic Circle. This is Trumsa. And this is the air ambulance team at the University Hospital of North Norway. Dr. Mads Gilbert heads the hospital's Department of Emergency Medicine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an extreme environment that is very cold and in this environment we have a lot of hypothermia.
GUPTA (on camera): Doctors here in Norway make runs like this every day, taking care of skiers or fishermen who fall into this frigid waters. They may be among the most experienced doctors in the world in treating accidental hypothermia. Is too much cold bad?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too much cold is a double edged sword, it can kill you and it can save you.
GUPTA: It's amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing. It will kill you if your heart stops from cold before your brain is cold. To put it very simply. It will protect you if you get cold enough before you have a cardiac arrest so that your organs do not need oxygen. It can do more in a cold patient before we lose him than in a warm patient.
GUPTA: And that is why the helicopter teams here don't warm people whose hearts have stopped in the cold. Instead, they wait. It was a lesson they finally mastered with Anna Bagenholm. She nearly froze in an icy stream. She had no heartbeat for more than three hours. Her body temperature 56 degrees Fahrenheit. No one has ever been that cold and then survived.
(on camera): Is it something you take pride in, the fact that you -
ANNA BAGENHOLM, SURVIVED CARDIAC ARREST: No. No. No. Well, it is nice to have a world record. But I mean -
GUPTA: You have a world record.
BAGENHOLM: It is nice to have a world record you know nobody wants to beat.
GUPTA: That is a good way of putting it.
(voice-over): I'm going to tell you how Anna did it and how her doctors made history. But first, I wanted to get a taste of what it is like to get really cold.
(on camera): This is a sort of rescue suit. Not quite what the fishermen wear but similar to it.
The benefits of hypothermia were found by accident. In cases of near drowning doctors found that the patients could live longer if the water is cold. Today the water is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm going to get a firsthand look of what happens when the body becomes hypothermic.
Even in this protective suit, I can tell you it hits you like a slap in the face. The first thing you notice is it is hard to breathe. The wind is just sort of taking your diaphragm. The next thing you notice is whenever the water hits your skin, it stings. The beginning of what happens. This is deep water. It is very cold.
It goes without saying that it was very cold and when the helicopter came in the entire face, forehead became really, really cold. You have a hard time catching your breath. Also, it's like a diving reflex. Your heart rate starts to slow down, your blood pressure starts to drop. I got really nauseated. 35.
(voice-over): That is 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
(on camera): This is early hypothermia. This is amazing. I was only in the water a few minutes.
(voice-over): Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees mine 95. I was dizzy, nauseated, confuse. Below 85 and your heart is in trouble. Remember Anna Bagenholm's temperature was 56 degrees. Anna was fresh out of medical school when she chose to live here in the Arctic. It is a skier's paradise. In May of 1999 she was going down this steep gully with two friends and fellow doctors in training. Marie Falkenberg and (INAUDIBLE). BAGENHOLM: The problem is when it comes down to this frozen ledge, it is very steep. I hit some stones and then I turned on my back and started to slide down the ice on my back and then Tuvrem (ph), he was a bit lower and Maria was a bit higher. And then they kind of got rid of their equipment and run to me. Because what I actually did was I kind of hit a hole in the ice so that the head went under.
GUPTA (voice-over): What happened was she landed upside down with her head stuck under water between a rock and a thick shelf of ice. In fact this is the exact spot where this all happened. Two of the men involved in Anna's rescue showed us.
KETIL SINGSTAD, RESCUER: She was where the water is. Over the cliff here.
GUPTA: You can only imagine the desperation her friends must have felt as the moments started to tick by. She struggled for a while and then she stopped. It took more than an hour and a shovel to free Anna from the ice. Tuvrem (ph) and Maria started CPR.
As the clock was ticking a helicopter flew Anna to the University Hospital of North Norway. It is an hour away. She was taken straight to the operating room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She has completely dilated pupils. She is actually waxy white. She is wet. She is ice cold when I touched her skin and she looks absolutely dead. This is the double edge sword again. The cold was protecting her brain. It was stopping her heart but it was protecting her brain. The brain was so cold it did not need any oxygen.
GUPTA: And the doctors began to slowly re-warm Anna's blood. Now take a look at this. This is Anna's heart.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just saw some little shivering and suddenly, suddenly, it contracted. And there was a pause and a second contraction. Ah. Everybody goes like that and we had really tearful eyes, all of us, because it was a moment of victory.
GUPTA (on camera): Everybody that we've talked to they talked about that moment.
BAGENHOLM: I know.
GUPTA: The heart is like this.
GUPTA: And then starts to beat again.
GUPTA: Have they described that moment to you?
BAGENHOLM: Yes. But I mean, I've been taking part in some re- warmings of other people.
GUPTA: This is your -
BAGENHOLM: Yes. I have seen movies like that.
GUPTA: When you saw the movie of your own heart stopped and then started again.
BAGENHOLM: I wasn't so impressed.
GUPTA (voice-over): Anna was paralyzed for months after the accident. It turns out that cold is devastating to your nerves but she made a full recovery and now she is radiologist at the very same hospital where doctors refused to accept that she was dead.
And in case you're curious, I was. Anna still skis those mountains where she once cheated death.
There is something else to the story as well. Anna and Porvin Nassheim (ph) they were friends at the time this all happened, but in spite of this accident, or maybe because of it, they began dating. They now live together in Trumsa.
Next, Chris Brooks, a crucial test.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We won't know until he wakes up and it depends on how good you kept oxygen to the brain.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. "Cheating Death" returns in a moment but first a look at some of your headlines for you.
The so-called balloon boy's father promised answers today but he only delivered a cardboard box. Richard Henne brought (ph) down the box outside his Fort Collins, Colorado home, saying he'd answer written questions later today.
Well, two days ago the nation watched a giant Mylar balloon float 90 miles across the Colorado sky, believing 6-year-old Falcon was inside. Turns out he says he was sleeping in the attic. But before slipping back inside, the dad did reiterate that the whole ordeal was not a publicity hoax. New information on that 10:00 PM Eastern.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Senator Mary Landrieu are calling for the dismissal of the Justice of the Peace who refused to marry an interracial couple. Jindal and Landrieu say Keith Bardwell clearly broke the law and his license should be revoked. Bardwell says he's not a racist. He says he refused to issue the couple's marriage license because he was concerned about any children they might have. Details on that at 10:00 PM Eastern as well.
We're going in depth on both of those stories.
I'm Don Lemon. "Cheating Death" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta continues right now.
GUPTA (voice-over): Chris Brooks, 22 years old in critical care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He'd survived more than 15 minutes without a heartbeat. Now under heavy sedation, he's being cooled to try and ward off brain damage. Doctors kept him cool for 24 hours and then slowly, slowly started to re-warm him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's fine, except for his brain. We have no test that can tell his brain - we won't know until he wakes up. And it depends how good you kept oxygen to the brain. Well, depending on - will you have any brain damage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm not trained in CPR or anything, so this could be good.
GUPTA (on camera): And you were thinking, "I was the one who was..."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's what they'd said. It's was going to be how well...
GUPTA: Did I do a good enough job?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yes.
GUPTA: That's what you were thinking?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's how they put it.
MELISSA BROOKS, CHRIS' SISTER: When they started reheating his body and they said that, like, you know, he might start to come out of it, don't be scared if he doesn't know who you are. Don't be sacred, like, you know, he obviously has been through a lot. We can't check his brain waves until he's conscious.
He started coming out of it. He couldn't talk or anything like that. A tube was still in his throat and everyone is always holding his hands and stuff, and like. And it's, you know, "Chris, if you can - if you can hear me, squeeze my hand. Squeeze my hand."
SIMONE WATSON, NURSE, HOSPITAL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: They can give you the two thumbs up sign, they're okay, because it's pretty high level.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he had one hand under the sheet, you know, and he gave her two thumbs up. And I said, that's just like my son not to listen to what he's told.
DR. LANCE BECKER, HOSPITAL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: So we've got emergency medicine here...
GUPTA (voice-over): Dr. Lance Becker says cooling is a lifesaver, but he also reminds me that not everyone gets that chance. GUPTA (on camera): My dad lives in a really small town in the Midwest. He has heart problems. If he were to have a cardiac arrest, is he less likely to get the - this care that you're describing if he lives that as compared to here?
BECKER: I think in general he is less likely.
GUPTA: That's kind of scary to hear. I mean, you know, for the average person who, you know, again, doesn't have this sort of access. And we're not talking about a multibillion dollar drug here, we're talking about using a bunch of ice and cooling somebody down. I mean, if it can save lives, why don't we do this everywhere?
BECKER: It is staff and personnel intensive. It can't be done in a non-monitored sort of way. And you can't cool someone down too much because you can also injure them that way. So it - you know, it has to be done carefully, but it's well within the capabilities of any hospital.
GUPTA: I - I don't want to overstate this, but this literally makes a huge difference in terms of survival?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can double the chance of brain survival after...
GUPTA: This could?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
GUPTA: It's amazing! You know, you think about multibillion dollar drugs and that's what gets all the attention. This piece of plastic and this machine could double survival and no one talks about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.
GUPTA (voice-over): Hypothermia is also time sensitive. That means the sooner, the better.
BECKER: And (INAUDIBLE) if I want to cool you down very rapidly, I don't have a good way to do it. So when we began working on thing, how can we cool a person down quickly? And so we started to develop a human coolant.
GUPTA (on camera): A human coolant?
GUPTA: Let's take a look. Let's go.
BECKER: This is, if you will, this is sort of our Frankenstein version of a totally novel device.
GUPTA (voice-over): Truth is it's not ready to use on patients. But this gizmo could inject an icy solution to cool you down in a matter of minutes instead of hours. Doctors know that if a critical patient is to survive, they got to be stabilized within 60 minutes. It's called "the golden hour." Difficult enough in Pennsylvania, but what if you're a wounded soldier in a war zone?
When I traveled to Afghanistan, I got an up-close look at the challenge.
GUPTA (on camera): These medics with me now are ready. They say they're ready for just about anything, including emergency triage in the field (ph).
GUPTA (voice-over): As well prepared as they are, they still face serious limits.
GUPTA (on camera): For sure, every second does count. But, as you might imagine, trying to induce hypothermia in the battlefields of Central Asia is just impractical.
GUPTA (voice-over): They can't drive an ambulance into the mountains of Afghanistan, and they can't send a medic hiking through the bush with chilled saline. But there may be another way to help these soldiers, a way to put the benefits of hypothermia into a shot. At least the Defense Department think so. And they're spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to try and steal the secret from squirrels.
PROF. MATT ANDREWS, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: These animals are very cold to the touch, about 42 degrees Fahrenheit.
GUPTA: Matt Andrews, a professor at the University of Minnesota, loves to talk about his hibernating ground squirrels.
ANDREWS: And when you look at it on the surface, you would never think that something like this may hold a secret for surviving profound blood loss.
GUPTA: But here's the connection - hibernation. It's a kind of slow motion that's more extreme than what happens with hypothermia.
ANDREWS: They lower their metabolism, and so their body temperature goes down. The heart rate is extremely slow. The blood flow to all the tissues is very slow.
GUPTA: But think about it, even as they get very little oxygen and no food, they still survive the winter just fine.
ANDREWS: If you could duplicate just some aspect of this, then you also could buy time for a person who has been injured.
GUPTA: For critically wounded soldiers or civilians...
ANDREWS: A bullet, a stabbing, automobile accident. They would normally have a great deal of difficulty surviving beyond a matter of minutes. GUPTA: Andrews' research partner is Sgt. Greg Bielman who's also a colonel in the Minnesota National Guard. He's been to Afghanistan, to Iraq and Kosovo. He knows first hand the importance of extending the golden hour.
DR. GREG BEILMAN, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Time goes on, the tissue is less able to generate energy to continue to respond to that shock period, and so the patient dies.
GUPTA: Beilman and Andrews developed an experimental drug. It's basically a shot of the same life-sustaining chemicals found in those hibernating squirrels. And now they're testing it on animals, such as this pig, to see if it protects against massive blood loss.
Normally an animal losing half its blood will die in five minutes. Given this drug, that same animal will live for three hours.
ANDREWS: So, that way, that extends that window of life, extend what's called in emergency medicine as the golden hour.
GUPTA: But what about people? Farfetched as it may seem, we have inside all of us the genes that in squirrels are linked to hibernation. Andrews and Bielman just want to find a way to flick on the switch.
BEILMAN: When I'm designing animal experiments, in the back of my mind is how is this going to help the next generation of doctors and nurses and medics care for combat injured people.
GUPTA: What if you could stretch that golden hour even longer to the golden day, the golden month, even the golden year? Enough time to fix anything.
Coming up, the man who might just do it.
GUPTA: Mark Roth is a biologist in Seattle. He's at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Here in this lab he developed the approach of cheating death through suspended animation.
MARK ROTH, BIOLOGIST, FRED HUTCHINSON CANCER RESEARCH CENTER: One of the things (ph) I was very interested in is the fact that some people, given certain circumstances, don't actually die. A 29-year- old skier in Norway is trapped in a water fall. Her core temperature falls to 13 degrees C. She has no capacity to sustain a heart rate for nine hours. She reanimates.
GUPTA: The key is changing metabolism, but the question is how? Hibernation is one trigger, cold is another. Roth found other clues in very simple animals: insects, tiny fish.
Is there a formula amongst all this for suspended animation?
ROTH: Yes. There is a formula for it, and the way you turn them off is top simply reduce the oxygen concentration.
GUPTA: Of course, everyone knows reducing oxygen is bad, but ironically eliminating it all together can put you into a state of suspended animation. And to do that, Roth gave the creatures a dose of toxic gas - hydrogen sulfide. Truth as strange as fiction.
What's your favorite movie?
ROTH: "The Princess Bride."
GUPTA: Just - he's almost dead or a little dead, right?
ROTH: Right. I love that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead.
ROTH: What ends up happening is creatures don't move. They actually appear dead, only they're not.
GUPTA: With backing from the military, Roth decided to try his experiment on mice.
Take a look here. Here's the mouse getting a dose of toxic hydrogen sulfide. Now, a normal mouse would just be a ball of activity. Not this one. He isn't sleeping. He isn't dead. It's just that every process in his body, even death, is in slow motion.
When I came to visit, Roth showed me how he did it.
ROTH: What you're doing here is you're just dimming the metabolism, just dimming the light a bit.
GUPTA: Outside the lab, the theory goes like this. Slowing things down would lengthen the window of survival. Think about that.
ROTH: For soldiers who get shot and they're losing their blood, they die before they can get to definitive care.
GUPTA (on camera): So it's the same thing, right? You don't have enough oxygen.
ROTH: Not so different than the mice we spoke about where we could extend their survival limits.
GUPTA (voice-over): Today, we revived this rat after less than an hour.
GUPTA (on camera): How's our rat doing?
ROTH: Oh, he's OK. Sort of around and stuff, and he's sort of gotten over the whole deal and sort of behaved.
GUPTA: He's back to - he's back?
ROTH: Yes. He's back.
GUPTA (voice-over): But in the original experiment, Roth kept that dimmer switch down for six hours, then brought the mice back to normal.
ROTH: And it's not like (ph) they died - we just stopped the experiment, because we feel like we'd made our point.
GUPTA: It worked well enough to land Roth in the pages of "Ripley's Believe It or Not."
Is there any reason why it wouldn't work in people?
ROTH: I'm not aware of them, but I'm sure they could exist.
What you want to do is have the patient's time be slowed down while everyone around them moves at what we would call real time. In that way, this person has, if you will, bought time.
GUPTA: So it's not a stop button as - as much as it is a slow forward button.
ROTH: Well in the case of what we're talking about in mammals, we're thinking a slow forward button, a dimming.
GUPTA: Is the premise that if we can buy doctors or health care professionals a little bit more time...
ROTH: The whole emergency medicine had buy - you know, having to take - it's a time-dependent thing and somebody either has enough time or they don't.
GUPTA: Enough time, but there's something else. For Roth, the fight against death is also personal. It's grounded in a family tragedy.
GUPTA (on camera): What happened to your daughter?
ROTH: She passed away when she was one after spending a month in the ICU following heart surgery.
GUPTA: Do you think that that had an impact on - on your choice of scientific pursuits?
ROTH: Oh, it did. Yes. Yes. So I - I spent - there's things that happened, you get - it focuses the mind when certain things happen to people, and it certainly focused mine.
GUPTA (voice-over): Nowadays, his focus is on a private company that he helped found. They're developing hydrogen sulfide in an injectable form, hoping to use it as a drug for humans. If you put mice into a state of near suspension, they're far more likely to survive any number of experiments - blood loss, heart attack - as compared to mice who are not given hydrogen sulfide.
Do you believe that if doctors, health care practitioner, have a little bit more time, they could fix anything?
ROTH: Anything - that's too far, but things that are not helped now could be helped, without question (ph).
GUPTA: For now, he's still chasing the Princess Bride.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.
ROTH: Well, there's no doubt that he was suspended in so far as - and fully de-animated. His friends would certainly have agreed. And there's no question that he comes back and rides off into the sunset at the end. So, yes, he does fit the bill of having done that. Right.
That was a happy ending.
GUPTA: That's a happy ending.
ROTH. Definitely has a happy ending. Yes. Yes.
GUPTA: Next a woman who says she got a glimpse of life after death. What the science tells us. That's just ahead.
GUPTA: All of these people share a special bond. They're survivors of sudden cardiac arrest.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most patients' access to (INAUDIBLE)...
GUPTA: You see, as emergency care gets better, as more people join this unusual club, we hear more and more about what it's like to die.
I first met Laura Garrity when she showed me the place where she died.
For Garrity - who's a grandmother and a school bus driver from North Attenborough, Massachusetts - that day started like any other. She was on her final morning run to Newton South High School when the trouble began.
LAURA GARRITY, CARDIAC ARREST SURVIVOR: My stomach hurt really bad, just a really sharp pain that I've never had, and I thought it was heartburn. GUPTA: She was able to park the bus, but then something happened.
GARRITY: Pain went right up my arm and right into my chest. And at that point, I said, "Uh-oh. I'm having a heart attack."
GUPTA: A high school nurse and the CPR trainer came running out with the school's new automated external defibrillator. The next 30 seconds went fast. She felt weak and then she couldn't catch her breath.
GUPTA (on camera): And, like that, she was unconscious.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was definitely gone.
GUPTA: As far as onlookers could tell, Laura Garrity was dead. Flat on her back, right there, not 50 feet from the doors of the school.
But Garrity says, in fact, she was somewhere else.
GARRITY: I floated right out of my body. It just - my body was here and I just floated away.
GUPTA (voice-over): What did you see?
GARRITY (voice-over): What did I see? I've seen light. It was very peaceful.
GUPTA: When you looked at your body, were there people working on you?
GARRITY: I've seen people but I kept going. I went and I've seen - I've seen my mom and I've seen my ex-husband, and they both came, and it was very peaceful. It was so peaceful, and it was bright and it was - it was beautiful.
I remember trying to reach out to my ex-husband, and he would not take my hand, and then they floated away and then I was just there. And then this massive energy, this - this powerful - very powerful energy, and when that was happening it was a picture of my son and my daughter and my granddaughter and it just - every second, just like their - their pictures just flashed into my mind. And then I - it must have been when I came back.
GUPTA: Garrity says she's not a religious person, but this gave her pause.
GARRITY (on camera): I didn't see God nor Jesus, but I was there. I know what it was like.
GUPTA (on camera): You were where?
GARRITY: I was up in heaven.
GUPTA (voice-over): This is where Laura was brought. It's the emergency room at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Dr. Bill O'Callaghan was just finishing up his shift that day.
DR. BILL O'CALLAGHAN, NEWTON-WELLESLEY HOSPITAL: She had no pulse, she had no blood pressure and she wasn't breathing on her own. I think most layman would - would describe that as being dead.
GUPTA: A dozen more shocks with the defibrillator - still nothing.
O'CALLAGHAN: I actually said out loud in the room that I'm going to shock her three more times and we're going to have to - to stop. And she came back on the very third one, if you can believe that.
GUPTA: Incredibly after 57 minutes - 57 minutes - Laura Garrity was brought back from the dead. Even more amazing, she has no brain damage, even after going nearly that hour without oxygen and blood flow.
But what about that mesmerizing story? Why do many people who die and come back return with such vivid memories?
Dr. Kevin Nelson - he's a neurologist - thinks he may have the answer. He thinks it's an answer rooted in brain science.
DR. KEVIN NELSON, UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY: You have an abrupt medical crisis, and it is (ph) the brain's response to danger.
GUPTA: Nelson thinks the near-death experience is simply - well, he thinks it's a waking dream.
NELSON: And we know that the visual system is robustly activated during dream, and this accounts for the - the light that's commonly seen.
GUPTA (on camera): There's a tunnel that a lot of people describe. Can - can that be explained away by what is happening in the brain?
NELSON: The retina of the eye is one of the most exquisitely sensitive tissues to the loss of blood flow.
GUPTA (voice-over): So when the retina doesn't get enough blood, your vision goes dark from the edges toward the center. Looks like a tunnel.
And what about the out of body experience? Nelson says he can re-create the same sensation simply by making you faint.
At the Center for Resuscitation Science, Dr. Becker is keeping an open mind.
BECKER: I believe that the brain is just the most amazing organ that we have and it can do many, many things that we don't understand. So I don't really know the answer.
GUPTA: I asked Laura Garrity, and she says this was no dream.
GARRITY: I know I went someplace else. I know there's a different place than - than, you know, here.
GUPTA: Whatever happened, Laura Garrity was dead, and now she's not. The same thing true of Anna Bagenholm.
And then, of course, there's Chris Brooks.
GUPTA (on camera): Here you are. I'm touching you. You're walking.
GUPTA (voice-over): Six months after his heart stopped, Chris graduated from college. Yes, he still goes bowling with his best friend, and he's got a job in Philadelphia, trying to save money to buy a house.
CHRIS BROOKS, NEAR DEATH SURVIVOR: I do paving, plumbing (ph) and HVAC. I got all my things - don't let this hold me back.
GUPTA: He has a defibrillator now. It's implanted here, just underneath the skin. It's actually gone off twice. One time was during a pickup football game.
C. BROOKS: As I'm walking towards the sidelines, just, boom, like it hits me, and my arms were like this. It took me right off the ground, flat faced on the grass and just out probably for ten seconds.
GUPTA (on camera): You got shocked?
C. BROOKS: Yes. It was - and it kicked me.
GUPTA: Wow. That's amazing.
C. BROOKS: Yes.
GUPTA: And if you hadn't had that?
C. BROOKS: I would have went into cardiac arrest.
GUPTA (voice-over): Doctors still don't know why his heart stopped in the first place. And he told me something else about that that was disturbing.
GUPTA (on camera): When are they going to figure this out?
C. BROOKS: I hope soon. I mean, now it's - what we're dealing with now, I guess, is insurance, so, I'm 23 years old and I'm not in school anymore, so I don't have insurance yet.
GUPTA: Is that part of the holdup?
C. BROOKS: I - I guess.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Brooks is about as close to a medical miracle as we have in modern medicine. It's a remarkable thing to see someone who's had no blood flow, who 20 years ago would have been declared dead or brain dead go back to a functioning, normal life. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything had to work - everything. The right paramedic showed up, the right - everything. You know what I'm saying? Everything was perfect for - for this miracle to happen.
GUPTA: And in a lot of circumstance, you may have been declared dead.
C. BROOKS: Yes.
GUPTA: What is the message, you think, for - for doctors, for everybody?
C. BROOKS: Don't give up, I guess. Don't give up.
GUPTA (voice-over): And that's what all these survivors and their loved ones wanted me to take away.
GARRITY: Don't give up. Don't give up on somebody. I was on my very last shock and I came back, and I believe that everybody deserves their fair chance and don't give up on them too soon.
DR. TORVIND NAESHEIM, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL OF NORTH NORWAY: Never give up, never give up, never give up because there's always hope.
GUPTA: There's a monument to that determination. It's the shovel that was used to cut Anna Bagenholm free from the ice. Today, it's hanging from a tree right by the stream where she was saved.
GUPTA (on camera): The message that they keep giving back to me is don't give up. Don't ever give up.
BECKER: I personally think it's one of the hardest decisions that you have to make when you're dealing with a patient and there comes a point when you're pretty darn sure that your efforts are just not going to be fruitful, and so you make a decision. But, you know, in the back of your mind - you know, in the back of your mind, you go, in 10 years from now, I think I could save that guy.
You know, I've been thinking about all of this since medical school, nearly 20 years ago. Many of the people you met tonight simply wouldn't have survived. Instead, they're cheating death. And as medicine moves forward, more and more of us are going to cheat death as well.
I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks so much for watching.