TAMWORTH man Brian Nowland was pronounced clinically dead on the other side of the world after suffering a heart attack, but thanks to an innovative medical technique administered in the USA he will soon be on his way home.
In the lead up to Christmas the 57-year-old human resources director for the New England Institute of TAFE had spent the day playing with his granddaughters, three-month-old Kaiya and two-year-old Lilly, and had helped to move cars parked in the street and stuck in snow.
Mr Nowland and his wife Mary were visiting his son Sam and his family at their home in Marion, part of Cedar Rapids, in Iowa.
That evening he was relaxing in a chair when he suffered a cardiac arrest and fell to the ground.
Sam Nowland, 29, performed CPR for 20 minutes until paramedics arrived.
Paramedics used a defibrillator to restart Mr Nowland’s heart and in a blizzard rushed him to St Luke’s Hospital where the medical team started a cooling process called hypothermia therapy.
The therapy involved placing Mr Nowland under blanket-like wraps infused with cold water, which lowered his body temperature to between 33 and 34 degrees Celsius – almost four degrees Celsius cooler than the normal body temperature of 37 – by staff in the hospital’s cardiac care unit.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said the therapy slowed Mr Nowland’s metabolism and decreased the rate of brain cell death caused by a lack of oxygen.
After 24 hours the medical team gradually warmed Mr Nowland’s body temperature back to normal.
The process, and other factors including Sam’s delivery of CPR, played a significant role in Mr Nowland’s recovery, according to Dr Todd Langager of Cardiologists LC in Cedar Rapids.
Eight days after being clinically dead for about 20 minutes, Mr Nowland underwent a triple heart-bypass, on December 28.
Mr Nowland initially remembered little of what happened in the lead-up to the cardiac arrest.
Sam has since filled in the details.
It would appear Mr Nowland was waiting for his son to get home from his job at Four Oaks about 10.30 pm on December 20.
Father and son talked and Sam had turned around when he heard his father fall off the chair.
Unsure of what happened, but unable to find a pulse, Sam started CPR, which he had learned in high school and been recertified for his job.
Medical travel insurance is covering the health care expenses incurred by Mr Nowland while in the US.
Mary Nowland said because of the distance from Tamworth to Sydney – where the treatment is also offered – her husband probably wouldn’t have survived if he had suffered cardiac arrest at home.
Dr Langager said time was vital to initiating the treatment which was used on 20 patients at St Luke’s Hospital in 2012.
Of those, nine survived the treatment to leave the hospital neurologically intact.
Acting director of the New England Institute of TAFE Bernard Ingle said campus staff were shocked to hear about Mr Nowland’s cardiac arrest.
“Brian is well known throughout TAFE in the New England and across the state – and I have been receiving phone calls and emails from a large number of staff expressing their concern and offers of help for Brian and his family,” Mr Ingle said.
“He is also very well known and respected in the community.
“We are all looking to support Brian as he returns to Tamworth, and at some stage, to his role as the institute’s human resources manager.”