Matheryn Naovaratpong, Alcor member A-2789, was pronounced legally dead on January 8, 2015 (the same date in both Thailand and Arizona’s time zone) in Bangkok, Thailand. The same day Matheryn, a neurocryopreservation member, became Alcor’s 134th patient. She is also Alcor’s youngest patient, being less than three years old at the time of her cryopreservation.
Matheryn was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric brain cancer (ependymoblastoma). Her parents, both doctors, went to great lengths to find an effective treatment, and tried aggressive chemotherapy, high dose radiation therapy, and numerous neurosurgeries, but Matheryn’s health was failing. When it became clear that Matheryn had only months or weeks left, given today’s level of medical science and treatment, the parents completed cryonics arrangements for her and worked with Alcor (primarily Medical Response Director, Aaron Drake) to overcome barriers of distance to provide her with a high-quality cryopreservation – which includes cryoprotection of her brain.
The family had originally planned to relocate their daughter to the US as her disease process became more advanced and significant planning was made towards that end with a California-based specialty hospital. This included finding suitable hospitals that accept pediatric cases or hospices that are certified for pediatric cases. However, with only a few days remaining before the girl was to be flown to the US, her respiratory function decreased significantly and she was placed on a ventilator, which eliminated any possibility of commercial airline travel. Since prior planning had been made and contacts had been established within that country for a different Alcor client (who helped generously and effectively in this case) and his family, the confidence level was high that the procedure could still be successfully performed in Thailand.
After discussing which individuals should be on the response team for a child who had 12 previous neuro surgeries and potentially very challenging vasculature, it was decided that Dr. Kanshepolsky, a neuro surgeon, would be an excellent candidate. After a request was made, Dr. Kanshepolsky agreed to travel with Aaron to perform the standby and a field neuro-cryoprotection, following the young girl’s pronouncement. His expertise proved invaluable. After examining the girl at the hospital, he made several observations and recommendations to the family that informed the decision to undertake cryoprotective perfusion of Matheryn’s brain in Thailand while not separating her brain (which was to be preserved) from the rest of her body. This worked out to be an effective way to move through the repatriation process and back to the US.
Two days were needed for travel to Thailand and two days were spent on standby. On the second day, Matheryn was pronounced by a physician who was present at the bedside when clinical death occurred. A surgery suite had been prepared in an adjoining room and access to the patient for stabilization and perfusion was immediate. Alcor’s field cryoprotection system was tested in the very remote field and proved effective. By existing benchmarks, the procedure went very smoothly and without incident. The entire patient was placed in a specially prepared dry ice shipping container and cool down to dry ice temperature (-79 degrees C/-109 degrees F) began on-site.
After the US Embassy in Thailand approved the shipment, the container was topped off with dry ice and shipped by airline to LAX for customs approval. It was easier and quicker for Alcor to work directly with our mortuary agent in Buena Park, California and take possession of the shipment directly in Los Angeles, rather than to secure another flight to Phoenix and deal with two additional sets of cargo offices. Steve Graber and Aaron Drake drove to California, topped the container off with dry ice, obtained a transit permit with the assistance of the mortuary and drove back to Arizona. The neuro separation was performed at Alcor after arrival and Matheryn became Alcor’s 134th patient.
This case was remarkable in several ways, including the determination and resourcefulness of Matheryn’s parents in working with Alcor to make this very long-distance case both possible and successful. It was the first ever field neuro cryoprotection in Asia and the Matheryn is our youngest patient. Matheryn’s family, extending well beyond her mother and father, were supportive and have said they plan to also make cryopreservation arrangements with Alcor. No doubt being surrounded by familiar faces of loving relatives will make the resumption of her life – as we hope and expect to be happen – easier and more joyful.
— Max More and Aaron Drake