A college student was pulled back from the brink of death after his heart stopped for about one hour, Taipei Veterans General Hospital said on Monday.
The 21-year-old student, surnamed Hsu (徐), suffered acute heart failure, lung damage and low blood oxygen levels following a traffic accident.
Paramedics in the ambulance tried to resuscitate him for 19 minutes. However, upon arrival at the hospital, his heart had stopped.
Hsu’s father said that he was very upset when doctors told him that there was only a 1 percent chance of rescuing his son and social workers were trying to calm him down and discuss the arrangements for his son’s funeral.
After another emergency resuscitation effort that lasted for 30 minutes, the student’s pulse returned.
Emergency Department director Huang Mu-hsun (黃睦舜) said that Hsu’s pulse and heartbeat returned about one hour after the accident.
As his heart beat and pulse were irregular, the medical team decided to put him on a life support machine known as ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation).
He was also transferred to the intensive care ward for hypothermia therapy, which is often used on brain-damaged patients.
Chang Hsiao-huang (張效煌), a heart surgeon, said a 72-hour hypothermia therapy treatment lowered Hsu’s body temperature to 33°C, which would slow metabolism of the brain tissue and mitigate brain damage by not allow brain pressure to rise too high.
He said that only 3.9 percent of those who arrive at hospitals without a heartbeat can be saved.
The chances of survival for those whose heartbeat stops upon arrival for over one hour is less than 1 percent.
Even if these patients are saved, they often suffer brain damage or paralysis, and could be left in a vegetative state.
However, Hsu was able to walk around eight days after the traffic accident and was discharged one-and-a-half months later, said Chen Chun-jen (陳俊仁), a doctor at the hospital’s Emergency Department.
He has shown no obvious signs of brain damage so far, Chen said, adding that this can be considered a “miracle.”