'Code Cool' saves mother, unborn child

'Code Cool' saves mother, unborn child

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by Rachel Clapp / NewsChannel 36

WCNC.com

Posted on July 19, 2010 at 11:21 AM

Updated Monday, Jul 19 at 11:32 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When Arnie and Amy Jones married, they were a picture perfect couple, but the picture would be forever changed one night in their living room.

"My wife's passed out. Her lips are turning blue and everything," Arnie's panicked voice told the 911 operator.

Amy, 35 years old, was gasping for air.

"I was kind of in and out during the night, sleeping light that evening and heard her gasping all of a sudden," said Arnie, remembering the night. "She was fighting for her breath."

Amy was in cardiac arrest. Arnie started compressions, as directed by the 911 operator. He was terrified he'd lose the love of his life and his future child. Amy was nine months pregnant.

"If they're in cardiac arrest they're essentially dead," said Harley Conrad with Medic.

Medic sees nearly 500 medical cardiac arrest cases every year. It is one of the most serious situations they can arrive upon. A person is dead and they have to bring them back to life.

But in Amy's case, the first responders had a new way to handle the situation. They call it "Code Cool." But would it be enough? What effect would it have on her unborn baby? No one could say for sure. The Medics responding had never used "Code Cool" and never on a pregnant woman.

"Even if you resuscitate the body, the effects on the brain are long reaching and typically very devastating," said Conrad.

When you go into cardiac arrest, your blood can't circulate appropriately, causing brain damage.

Even if you are lucky enough to survive cardiac arrest, only 5 percent do if they go into cardiac arrest outside the hospital.

"The goal with Code Cool is to lower their body temperature," said Conrad.

A lower temperature slows the body's system down and that protects the brain.

First, Medic uses a drill to create a hole in the patient's bone, and then cold saline flows into the body, lowering the temperature. Two saline bags stored in the ambulance bring the body temperature into the low nineties.

"A few minutes makes a huge difference in someone's brain injury," said Dr. Alan Heffner, the director of the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Carolinas Medical Center.

He headed up the team that helped coordinate Medic's Code Cool efforts with the hospital.

Starting the cooling process in the field increases the process's effectiveness. Heffner says there's only about five or six cities in the country that have a coordinated Code Cool set up with paramedics.

In 2009, Medic used Code Cool with more than 300 Cardiac Arrest patients. Once the patient is at the hospital, CMC uses a machine to maintain the patient's lower temperature for 24 hours.

Then, they slowly warm the patient up and that's when they find out if the patient will recover. Amy did.

"I didn't know where I was. I had to look down," she said, remembering when she woke up in the hospital. "I actually had to look down and thought, 'Oh, my stomach's gone.' I had the baby and I didn't know."

Doctors delivered Elizabeth Joann and she was healthy.

"Very lucky. Very blessed," was all Amy could say while looking at her baby and talking to NewsChannel 36 in her living room.

Arnie realized he had just been part of a miracle. He's overcome with emotion, a year later.

"Relief," he said, choking back tears. "I was just so happy they were both here. If I'd lost her in the middle of the drama, I don't know how I would have dealt with that."

Elizabeth, now crawling and smiling, will soon celebrate her first birthday. Her happy face is reminder to both Arnie and Amy.

"Don't ever take life for granted. Everything for us worked out for the best. Everything was in place for us," Arnie said.

To learn more about Code Cool and what you can do to protect yourself against cardiac arrest and heart disease, visit the American Heart Association.

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