Does Cooler Work? HFD Thinks It Does

It's been a little more than a year since the Houston Fire Department began using a technique to quickly cool the victims of heart attacks and other trauma. Induced hypothermia was used when paramedics found 52-year-old Diana Lorenzana slumped over the wheel of her car.

"I was going out of the parking at the University of Houston-Downtown and this was my last memory."

Lorenzana had suffered a massive heart attack and had no pulse when EMT's and paramedics arrived. After resuscitating her, they began cooling her body on the way to the hospital.

"This is one of the reasons I can make it that day because immediately they used that new technique with me and I don't have any damage in my heart. It's like nothing happened to me."

Induced hypothermia has been around for a while, but Houston is one of the first cities to actually use it with first responders. Donnie Archibald is a senior EMS supervisor.

"You slow your brain down. You slow your heart down to where it doesn't beat as hard to move the same blood around. So as you slow everything down, it gives everything a chance to recover a lot quicker."

First responders use ice packs around the head and core of the body.  Dr. David Persse is Houston's EMS director and says he's not sure hypothermia saved Lorenzana, but it couldn't have hurt.

"For years we've been resuscitating folks and some of them go home neurologically intact and just fine, so whether in this particular case whether it was the hypothermia that was the key, we'll probably never know, but the idea is her chances of having gone home neurologically normal here certainly enhanced by the hypothermia."

Lorenzana stopped by Fire Station 9 today to thank the emergency workers who saved her life.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...