The Journey / The Quest 1: What Happens To Brain Activity When The Heart Stops? A Personal Take
The first time I lost consciousness was when they placed the stent in my LAD, shortly after I was flown to the hospital, following a delay of about 70 minutes (February 21, 2014). It seemed like I had just drifted off to sleep. I woke up to what I thought was annoying pounding on my chest, when it was CPR. For 20+ hours after the procedure I remained flat in bed, with my right leg immobilized by the catheter in my groin. Inside were the wires of a temporary pacemaker.
The second time I passed out was shortly after they removed the temporary pacemaker. They pulled it out of the catheter like fishing line. This time it felt like a massive, frightening head rush, and I went in and out of it, like a wave. Apparently my heart missed quite a few beats. It was enough to prompt them to put in a permanent pacemaker.
The third time I was out cold, for 45 seconds. It seemed like sleep, and I have no memory of the moment when it came over me. They printed out the data from the heart monitor, indicating I had flatlined, despite the pacemaker (later to be determined to have a faulty wire, but I did not know that until the following day, after a second “install”):
verbinformalpast tense: flatlined; past participle: flatlined
- 1.(of a person) die.
- 2.fail to increase; remain static.“their share of the vote has flatlined at about 3%”
They snapped me awake by yelling my name; the startle restarted my heart. They also yelled at me to spit out the food in my mouth, as I was in the middle of eating lunch when I lost it.
In just under a minute my room was full of professionals. In addition to at least three of the nurses on the floor, there was an amazingly GQ heart technician, who steered the foot of my bed on the way back to ICU. I remember thinking that if I was going to die, I was surrounded by some really cool people, and I got to stare at a gorgeous being on my way out.
Another person in the room when I came to was “Supervisor Troy.” He and the others escorted me to my second stay in ICU: Supervisor Troy, me Troy, and other assorted heroes. When we entered my assigned room, they realized that my nurse for the night was also named Troy. On the way into the room, Sup. Troy said, “Oh, no. It’s a trifecta”! Someone out of my vision said, “It’s a Troy-fecta”! It’s funny now, but at the time I was in shock, and near tears, as I had no idea what was happening, or if it would stop. I knew they had to rip open the wound in my chest to fix the unknown problem, and I was not looking forward to it.
How long does brain activity last after cardiac arrest?
The common medical understanding is that cardiac arrest victims become unconscious within 20 seconds of the loss of blood flow (heart stops). That’s not quite the same thing as losing “all brain activity.” It just means the brain is incapable of keeping you awake.
All brain activity is thought to be over by about 3-4 minutes from the moment the heart stops, which is one reason why we want to start CPR as quickly as possible. Full Article Here
When this happened I was fortunate to have been in the “heart wing” of a renowned hospital that specializes in cardiac care, and I was treated immediately by the heart surgeon and the team at the “Catheter Lab”. Within that context, it seems I had plenty of time to spare without suffering any brain damage.
In this case my blacking out was a consequence of a faulty wire in the pacemaker that they installed after the second time my heart stopped. I spent the night in ICU, and they corrected the problem. I was transfered back to the heart wing the following morning, and was discharged two days later. I felt like the “Ajax Lady” in Cheech and Chong. Her antics after mistakenly snorting ajax at a party are classic, as is Chong’s statement to the police: “Can’t you see she’s been through a lot in a short amount of time?”
Presently, my surgeon stated that he has concerns about the pacemaker doing further damage to my heart. The 70 minutes it took for the helicopter to get me there was not helpful, but I forgot to ask him to clarify exactly how so. I had been distracted by the images from my angiogram that showed my entire LAD is shot, including the valve, and that I am at high risk for future clogs in that artery.
The next step is checking in with the pacemaker nurse, and my surgeon, next month. The bandage has not fallen off of the sutures, but it is starting to itch. It is still quite tender. It is weird to feel something like an MP3 player, sewn into my chest. It seems this may be just a beginning.
Next entry? I have been pondering writing a post about diet changes:”How To Gain And Lose 5 Pounds In 12 Hours With Fiber” …
Just before the police arrive –