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Miracles and medicine bring dead man back to life

On April 24, 2011, while leading his church choir, Sean Peacock suffered a cardiac arrest.

"I collapsed on the floor. No vitals, no pulse, no rhythm. I was not breathing," says Peacock. "For about 22 minutes, I had no pulse. I was basically dead."

Sean's sister immediately began CPR. Paramedics continued resuscitation efforts en route to a hospital in Rockdale County. There, doctors knew Sean needed more specialized care, so he was airlifted to Piedmont Hospital.

According to cardiologist Charlie Brown, M.D., "When he arrived in the intensive care unit, even though his blood pressure was stable and his heart rhythm had been re-established, Sean was completely comatose and was not responsive to verbal or painful stimulus. So, we were quite concerned about his neurologic status at that time."

Therapeutic hypothermia: Treatment for cardiac arrest patients

When the body is deprived of oxygen, the brain cells are the first things to die.

So, Dr. Brown decided to try a relatively new technique called therapeutic hypothermia.

"By starting hypothermia - by reducing the body's core temperature- you actually stop the internal injury process that takes place on a chemical basis," Dr. Brown says.

Devices used in therapeutic hypothermia include cooling blankets and ice packs.

Another device is actually inserted into the main vein of the abdomen and exchanges heat internally and very aggressively.

"All of the emergency attention Sean received had been appropriate," says Dr. Brown. "And then we were with him within three hours of his arrest. So while he was in the unit, we put in the cooling catheter and then cooled him as quickly as protocol would allow us over about three hours.

Gradually over the next couple of days, Dr. Brown allowed Peacock's body to return to normal temperature.

"I wasn't given much hope for about 52 hours," Peacock remembers. "They really didn't know what was going to happen."

"To our amazement and happiness, the brain started to wake up from a deep coma," Dr. Brown says. "We joked that he was a little bit like a fluorescent light bulb where he started to wake up.

Peacock's recovery

 Over the course of a few days, those lights gradually came on and he appeared normal. Peacock had no neurological dysfunction.

"This was a life-changing event," he says.

At the time of the interview, he and his wife were expecting their first daughter.

"That in and of itself is a miracle," he adds, "because I'm here for it."

Very few people survive cardiac arrest. Even fewer survive without brain damage. Therapeutic hypothermia increases the odds of complete recovery. Only a few hospitals, like Piedmont, offer this treatment. Click here to learn more. 

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