Patient with No Heartbeat Fully Recovers

Doctors credit new technology for saving a woman's life

By Christine Lee
|  Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012  |  Updated 5:37 PM CDT
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Doctors credit a temperature management system for keeping a woman's brain from becoming permanently damaged after a heart attack.

Christine Lee, Irving Reporter

Doctors credit a temperature management system for keeping a woman's brain from becoming permanently damaged after a heart attack.

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Debi Lemon was born with a rare heart defect but it didn't keep her from living an active lifestyle running multiple 5K's and most recently a half-marathon.

But on Jan. 9, while at work, Debi's heart stopped.

"I just collapsed, from what I've been told. Because I don't remember anything," she said.

Debi's co-worker performed CPR and medical responders revived her by shocking her heart.

"It was very scary, when ... you can't talk to the one you've loved for 20 years plus and not get a reaction," said Debi's husband, Kevin Lemon.

Doctors at the Las Colinas Medical Center hooked Debi up to a system called the Arctic Sun Temperature Management System. The device is relatively new to the North Texas hospital, having been used there for only about a year.

"It has been shown that if you can cool the body down for 36 hours after your heart stops, you can actually protect the brain," said Dr. Michael Rothkopf, cardiologist.

Fearing permanent brain damage, Kevin looked after his motionless wife.

"I held her hand every night hoping that she would wake up, well, and remember me," he said.

When doctors brought Debi back to consciousness, she described what she saw.

"Family in the room. Just clapping, happy, that I was still myself and I knew everybody," she said.

The 43-year-old recovered fully, and doctors said she was one of the lucky ones.

"We've probably used it in the last year about a dozen times. And you can probably say about half of those patients have walked out of the hospital to live normal healthy lives," said Dr. Alexander Kennedy, medical director of emergency services.

Now more than ever, Debi said she was thankful for her life and isn't taking anything for granted. She plans to participate in an American Heart Association run this year.

Kevin said he plans to run right next to her during the entire time.

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