This one's for the books: a 38-year-old man defied science by coming back to life after his heart stopped beating for 45 minutes.

Cardiac arrest is a serious matter - so serious that everyone is encouraged to learn how to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In cardiac arrest, once the blood supply is cut off, different parts of the body especially the brain begin to starve from oxygen, and their tissues die.

CPR should also be done very quickly since it takes only five minutes before the brain damage sets in and only 10 minutes before the patient is more likely going to die.

Jaysukhbhai Thaker, stationery shop owner in Probandar in India, is something else. All thanks to a daring but truly life-saving procedure, his cardiac arrest that lasted for almost an hour was reverted. Not only that, he got a new heart.

It Was End Stage

When the medic arrived to pick up Thaker and airlift him from Probandar to Fortis Malar Hospital in Chennai, he wasn't only weak - he was also jaundiced, an obvious sign that his liver was already failing.

However, it was expected as what he had was an end-stage dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart disease wherein the ventricles begin to thin out, preventing the blood to flow properly in the heart.

When he arrived in the hospital, a health care team immediately stabilized him with medications before he was moved to a ward, waiting for a possible heart transplant.

But before his new heart came, he suffered a major cardiac arrest. With crash carts in tow, nurses tried to revive him to no avail. That's when the team thought of doing something more aggressive: extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ECPR).

The Procedure

ECPR is a known support procedure in emergency care and is usually considered if standard CPR tends to have failed. Nevertheless, it is not easy. It is invasive and risky, and it can introduce serious complications to the patient. Of course, there's the likelihood that it wouldn't work.

Thaker's situation, though, required the procedure, especially since the medical team wanted to protect the patient's brain from completely dying. Thus, the doctors connected Thaker to a portable bypass machine called extracorporeal membrane oxygenator (ECMO) through a catheter inserted through his femoral vein. While a nurse continued with the CPR, his blood moved through the machine where it was oxygenated before it went back into his body.

The team stopped only when they heard his heartbeat again - after 45 minutes. Since the machine cannot be connected to him indefinitely, the doctors inserted a left-ventricle assist device (LVAD), which works like an artificial pump, until the new heart comes along.

Renewed Life

Thaker's cardiac scare wasn't smooth sailing as he was in coma for 10 days, scaring his wife, Manisha. "They told me that people who go into coma never wake up. We had spent several lakhs by then. I thought I had lost my husband. But in just a few minutes I heard from the staff nurse that he had woken up," she said.

The team also faced the challenge of transporting the new heart, which would come from a brain-dead man in Hyderabad. Pressed for time, the donor heart had to be delivered courier style: via air ambulance.

Today, Thaker is alive and well, definitely appreciating his renewed life. As for the hospital team, it's giving huge thanks to the machine, "which routinely brings people back to life," commented hospital cardiac sciences director Dr. K. R. Balakrishnan.

For a complete discussion of the procedure, check out the video below:

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