Monthly Archives: August 2017

Study suggests know your dead after you die

Driven by ambition and curiosity to learn what lies on the other side of death, five medical students deliberately stop their hearts in order to experience “the afterlife” in the new thriller “Flatliners” (Sony Pictures), which opened in U.S. theaters on Sept. 29.

They quickly discover that there are unexpected and terrible consequences of dallying with death — but not everything they experience after “dying” is in the realm of science fiction. A growing body of research is charting the processes that occur after death, suggesting that human consciousness doesn’t immediately wink out after the heart stops, experts say.

But what really happens in the body and brain in the moments after cardiac arrest?

The terms “cardiac arrest” and “heart attack” are frequently used interchangeably, but they are not identical conditions, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). During a heart attack, a blocked artery prevents blood from reaching a portion of the heart, which can cause that section to die — though the heart continues to beat, the AHA explained.


During cardiac arrest, the electrical signals driving the heart’s pumping action are disrupted, the heart ceases beating and death shortly follows, the AHA said.

In the vast majority of terminal cases, physicians medically define death based on when the heart no longer beats, said Dr. Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at NYU Langone School of Medicine in New York City.

“Technically speaking, that’s how you get the time of death — it’s all based on the moment when the heart stops,” he told Live Science.

Once that happens, blood no longer circulates to the brain, which means brain function halts “almost instantaneously,” Parnia said. “You lose all your brain stem reflexes — your gag reflex, your pupil reflex, all that is gone.”


A trajectory of cell death

The brain’s cerebral cortex — the so-called “thinking part” of the brain — also slows down instantly, and flatlines, meaning that no brainwaves are visible on an electric monitor, within 2 to 20 seconds. This initiates a chain reaction of cellular processes that eventually result in the death of brain cells, but that can take hours after the heart has stopped, Parnia said.

Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) does send some blood to the brain — about 15 percent of what it requires to function normally, according to Parnia. This is enough to slow the brain cells’ death trajectory, but it isn’t enough to kick-start the brain into working again, which is why reflexes don’t resume during CPR, he said.

“If you manage to restart the heart, which is what CPR attempts to do, you’ll gradually start to get the brain functioning again. The longer you’re doing CPR, those brain cell death pathways are still happening — they’re just happening at a slightly slower rate,” he told Live Science.

Recent studies have shown that animals experience a surge in brain activity in the minutes after death. And people in the first phase of death may still experience some form of consciousness, Parnia said. Substantial anecdotal evidence reveals that people whose hearts stopped and then restarted were able to describe accurate, verified accounts of what was going on around them, he added.

“They’ll describe watching doctors and nurses working; they’ll describe having awareness of full conversations, of visual things that were going on, that would otherwise not be known to them,” he explained. According to Parnia, these recollections were then verified by medical and nursing staff who were present at the time and were stunned to hear that their patients, who were technically dead, could remember all those details.

Search of kidney donor for wife

Winters said he came up with the idea after his wife, Deanne, was diagnosed with stage 5 kidney failure and he was at a loss of how to help.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he told the news outlet. “I felt like I needed to do something.”


He saw a similar story on the news about a man in search of an organ donor for his wife, and made his own sign before heading out. Nothing that rush hour is his favorite time to walk, Winters said that on his first day, a driver stopped to tell him he would get tested to see if he was a match.

“I say ‘Deanne, I think we have a good chance of getting you a kidney,’” he told Fox 13 Now.

But until it’s confirmed, Winters said he’ll keep walking with his sign. One side of his board brings attention to his wife’s case, but the reverse side notes the thousands of others who could benefit from organ donation.

“After I get a kidney I will have my wife back the way she was, normal, helping people, loving people,” Winters told Fox 13 Now. “She likes to serve other people.”

The terms “cardiac arrest” and “heart attack” are frequently used interchangeably, but they are not identical conditions, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). During a heart attack, a blocked artery prevents blood from reaching a portion of the heart, which can cause that section to die — though the heart continues to beat, the AHA explained.

The many epicenters of opioid epidemic

At the local level, the ravages of the crisis are even more shocking than the horrific and ever-increasing numbers. In many cities, addiction drama has jumped out of screens and news outlets and taken over familiar streets, neighborhoods, homes we know.

Manchester, New Hampshire is one of the places where opioid abuse has changed the landscape. Nearly everyone in this small city has a family member or friend who OD’d or knows someone who does.

First responders have seen their call volume rise dramatically, but firefighters, for example, aren’t chasing more fires. They’re getting multiple calls a day for an “unresponsive person,” which is code for someone deep in the clutches of an overdose.

“Last month was our highest month with overdoses,” Fire Chief Dan Goonan told Fox News. ”We had 118 and we had 11 deaths. … It’s not really getting better. I think we’re trying to tread some water here and do the best we can with the resources we have.”

Fox News visited with Goonan one year ago to take an in-depth look at the opioid crisis. In the fall of 2016, in the late swirl of the presidential campaign, Manchester was already in the throes of an epidemic.

Local police were teaming up with the Drug Enforcement Agency to try and track drugs from the buyers to the suppliers and get them off the streets.

So far, the strategy hasn’t shown significant results and the workload has gotten heavier.

“We’ve formed a strike force here and we’re pushing cases down to the source — the folks who are actually the command and control. The ones who are making decisions that are really affecting life in New Hampshire … that’s who we’re targeting,” said the DEA’s Jon DeLena, assistant special agent in charge of Northern New England.

Overdoses are now common on the streets of Manchester, even in the light of day.

Lawmakers who didn’t appreciate President Donald Trump calling the state “a drug-infested den” are forced to admit they need federal help and complain it’s not coming fast enough.

This week, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu announced $150,000 in state funds would be funneled to two local rehab programs: Safe Station, run by the fire department, and Serenity Place, which not only treats addicts but employs some of those in recovery.

“A bunch of bureaucrats and the governor aren’t going to solve the drug crisis,” Sununu told Fox News, “but folks on the frontlines of this, folks in recovery actually telling their stories and giving examples of what works and doesn’t work — that’s how you really start making a difference.”

The executive director of Serenity Place, Stephanie Bergeron, said New Hampshire has been hard hit and a lot of promises were made. But, she said, “I don’t think we’re seeing much and if anything is happening we’re just not aware of it yet.”

“Really, right now if it weren’t for private donors we certainly wouldn’t be doing Safe Station, I’m pretty certain of that,” Goonan added.