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      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeMay 23rd 2008
     (2343.1)
    In the hoary halls of the Cleveland Clinic, a recently deceased woman was revived from the ills of the dead despite the fact her vital brain functions, nay, her very mind itself had fled this mortal coil for nearly 17 hours! Luckily, when the dead woman returned to the bonds of the flesh she wasn't greeted with the appropriate shotgun to the brainpan that is the proper fate of all zombies.
    Zombie Woman of Cleveland
    In all seriousness, our notions of what is dead and alive are at their core, fluid. It seems that as long as there is a brain and all the organs can more or less work, and bacteria haven't consumed large portions of the body, death, in many cases, is more and more reversible. Now I highly doubt that anytime in my lifetime I'll see anything so esoteric as 'braintaping', or downloading consciousness (something that I have quite a few doubts will ever happen), but it will soon be common practice for even the most traumatically injured, if reached soon enough, to be revived.
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      CommentAuthorzoem
    • CommentTimeMay 23rd 2008
     (2343.2)
    Yeesh. Creepy. Love to see what the medical journals make of this - or if it's simple human error in the monitoring. I'd lean towards the second, personally. If there's a way someone can fuck something up, he will.

    I do wish, as you say, this could be hope for reviving people on the brink of death. I think that if they figure out what happened, that might be possible - though this only really applies to a limited set of circumstances. Trauma, strokes, and as you mentioned anything involving bacterial or viral damage are out of luck.

    But at the same time, seems like stating "If I'm in a permanent vegetative state or all the stuff has stopped working, pull the plug" isn't quite enough anymore, if you want to make provisions for your conditions of life or death.

    As I see it, at least for now, it's coming eventually. The idea of stretching life out by minutes and days is unsavory - especially if it's painful.

    Also, I'd totally like to hear about the afterlife, which she surely visited for that time, given her faith.
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      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeMay 23rd 2008
     (2343.3)
    Well, seeing as how near-death experiences are limited to those people who suffer sudden and prolonged loss of blood flow to the brain, but not so sudden that it sends them into shock, there's a good chance she had an NDE. However, metaphysics aside, if there really was zero brain function (and not just zero measurable brain function), then I'd be very, very surprised if she has any idea that any time passed at all. There may have been some sub, sub consciousness going on, and there's a goodly chance of her confabulating details of her experience, but I'd love to hear more of her experience, too.

    I should have been a neurologist. This stuff is absolutely fascinating to me.
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      CommentAuthorzoem
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2008
     (2343.4)
    If you're interested in brain stuff, a really great book is Phantoms in the Brain by V. S. Ramachandran. It's written for the intelligent layman, and I found it really enjoyable. It covers a wide range of fascinating brain stuff.

    If I could handle the years of school and residency at 30, I would definitely go for being a neurologist. I don't have the stamina though.
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      CommentAuthorJon Wake
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2008
     (2343.5)
    It's why I went into writing-I haven't the patience to get anything more than a laymen's understanding. I'm familiar with V. S. Ramachandran, I loved his TED talk. I'll have to hunt down the book.
    • CommentAuthorLani
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2008
     (2343.6)
    I find this fascinating and it kind of breaks my brain that it could happen. However, the above story has a typo - it wasn't 17 hours, it was 17 minutes, as you can see in this corrected story. But still, 17 minutes of no pulse and no brain activity, and then just "waking up"...that's crazy!
    • CommentAuthorLani
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2008
     (2343.7)
    ...So, I'm still feeling feeling somewhat skeptical about the story, and even more so after talking to my brother about it (he's about to start his residency as an ER doc). He thinks there may have been some incorrect readings by the machines or something, because this really can't happen. I suspect he's probably right.
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      CommentAuthorzoem
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2008
     (2343.8)
    Two things are at play here. One, the actual cause of brain death, and two, the induced hypothermia after cardiac arrest. Some citations on both:

    From here:

    However, no one actually dies until the brain dies. The brain dies when blood stops being pumped to it. Other organs such as the heart and kidneys can stop working completely and in some circumstances are able to be revived - but not the brain.
    ...
    When any part of the body is injured it swells. The brain is no different. An injured finger or ankle can keep expanding because there is nothing to restrict it. The brain however, is contained within the rigid skull that limits how much it can expand. As the brain continues to swell, pressure builds up within the skull.


    Then, from here:


    Recent landmark studies in Australia and Europe, however, show that inducing mild hypothermia—to a target range of 89.6? - 93.2? F (32? - 34? C) for 12 - 24 hours—can prevent brain damage and often save lives.
    ...
    When a patient is resuscitated, reperfusion sets off a series of chemical reactions that can continue for up to 24 hours, possibly causing significant inflammation in the brain. Inducing mild hypothermia decreases intracranial pressure, the cerebral metabolic rate, and the brain's demand for oxygen consumption. In addition, it is thought to suppress many of the chemical reactions associated with reperfusion injury, including free radical production, excitatory amino acid release, and calcium shifts, which can in turn lead to mitochondrial damage and apoptosis.4,7 The end result: Patients have a better chance of recovering with their neurological function intact.


    Sorry this post is more quotes than text - but the point is, if the quote was in fact 17 MINUTES (big difference!) this seems to me like an extreme case but not impossible. If my minimal knowledge of anatomy is accurate, hypothermia induced for the cardiac arrest could stop brain swelling - which is what ultimately causes death.

    Also, I can't find any citations, but I have certainly read stories about people falling into freezing lakes, being dragged out after a while, and being revived.

    17 hours scared me more. :)
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2008
     (2343.9)
    Racingpenguins, given the religious references in the orginal story I tend to suspect that the family have misinterpreted and exaggerated what they were told to emphasise the miraculous nature of the woman's recovery.

    I don't think they're consciously lying but I think it's possible that there's an element of self-deception here.
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      CommentAuthorobliterati
    • CommentTimeMay 24th 2008
     (2343.10)
    I'm having a time out until I can learn some manners.
    I love that this subject was raised here by someone named "Wake".

    That is all. :)
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      CommentAuthorJoe Paoli
    • CommentTimeMay 25th 2008
     (2343.11)
    There were a lot of news stories in the last year about Resuscitation science, kicked off by a scientist who brought some dogs back after three hours of brain death. I read them with interest and discovered that one of the fundamental facts told to us in health class, or CPR class, or wherever - that cells in the brain start dying after 6 minutes of oxygen starvation - is actually wrong. What apparently kills someone deprived of oxygen is the flooding of oxygen BACK into cells.

    Let me repeat that:
    Becker, in contrast, discovered something really nuts: That when you deprive cells of oxygen for more than five minutes, they die not because of an immediate lack of oxygen. They die when the oxygen supply is resumed.
    (source here)

    I found it pretty mind-blowing from an Everything You Know Is Wrong perspective. The implications for how many people we can bring back to life are astounding.