Todd’s Story: A Sign of Things to Come

Todd Green’s family anxiously gathered around his bed at Atrium Medical Center. They were thrilled when they saw him start to use sign language. It was the first sign that therapeutic hypothermia had revived him from cardiac arrest.

Todd had arrived unconscious at Atrium’s Emergency Trauma Center after going into cardiac arrest. The medical team performed therapeutic hypothermia, an emergency procedure to help prevent brain damage.

Todd was treated for two days with therapeutic hypothermia to cool his body while under sedation. When it was time to begin returning his body temperature to normal, the big question on everyone’s mind: Was the procedure successful in preventing brain damage?

“Slowly, over the course of an hour, Todd was warmed up and the sedation decreased,” Todd’s wife, Holly, said. “He had a breathing tube in his mouth, so he couldn’t talk. His eyes were shut, but all of a sudden he started signing.”

She explains, “Todd teaches the deaf in Sunday school, and he signed that he wanted water. We were all overjoyed. His brain was working!”

Todd’s family started high-fiving and hugging each other, tears in their eyes. Todd gestured that he wanted to write something. Pen and paper in hand, he wrote, “What happened?”

“We knew he was going to be okay,” Holly said.

What Happened?

Another sign – a stop sign – was at the beginning of Todd’s life-changing journey. On his way to meet his parents for lunch, he stopped at a stop sign in Franklin. And that’s the last thing he remembered that day.

Before this moment, at age 40, he had no health problems. in fact, he maintained a rigorous pace as owner of Midwest Construction.

“I later learned that other drivers couldn’t figure out why my car wasn’t moving,” Todd reports. “They came to my car and saw that I was unconscious. But I had both feet on the brake.”

Quick response by passersby, the police department, and the rescue squad started a chain of events that saved Todd’s life – and his brain function. CPR was begun at the scene, and the emergency squad used a defibrillator to restart Todd’s heart on the way to Atrium’s Emergency Trauma Center.

“A team had been alerted so we were ready to start procedures right away with Todd,” reports emergency physician David Romano, MD.

“His condition was assessed, and we determined no further procedures were needed for his heart. But Todd was still unconscious. Technically, with his heart event, he had been clinically dead for a while. Our main concern shifted to his neurological functions.”

Luckily for Todd, the therapeutic hypothermia procedure became available at Atrium Medical Center the previous spring.

Marquita Turner, former director of Emergency and Trauma Services, explains the procedure: “After sedating the patient and providing breathing assistance, a catheter is placed in a large blood vessel in the groin area. The catheter cools the blood, lowering the body temperature. This allows for decreased oxygen needs of the brain and improves the patient’s chances of preserving brain function.”

Many medical facilities may only be able to cool a patient’s body with chilled blankets and wraps, Dr. Romano points out. “Atrium’s aggressive way of protecting brain function is the superior way of preventing neurological loss.”.

Turner adds that therapeutic hypothermia doesn’t have guaranteed results. “This procedure has one in five chances of preventing loss in brain function,” she said. “But it’s the best treatment available today for improving outcomes after cardiac arrest.”

Gratitude Abounds

Todd, the father of five – twins and triplets, age 17 and 12, at the time – had a full recovery.

“My heart is just fine and there’s no loss of brain function,” he reports. “We’re so grateful that Atrium was equipped to handle everything that was happening to me.”

“From the moment we were there until the day we left, every person at Atrium treated us with love, respect, and great concern,” Holly said. “Even the nurses from the Emergency Trauma Center later came up to Todd’s room to see how he was doing.”

She also appreciates Atrium staff members who explained the therapeutic hypothermia procedure to her and the family. “People took time to explain the procedure and why it was needed,” she said. 

“We give thanks and glory to God, of course. But we also will be grateful to Atrium for the rest of our lives,” Holly adds.

 

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