Alcor News

Alcor News

News Blog of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation

Dr Stephen Coles Becomes Alcor’s 131st Patient

Dr Stephen Coles, Alcor member A-2786, was pronounced legally dead on the morning of Wednesday December 3, 2014 in Scottsdale, AZ at the age of 73. Coles, an unusual brain-only patient, was cryopreserved the same day, becoming Alcor’s 131st patient.

Coles was a researcher and a spokesperson on supercentenarians and on aging. He was co-founder and executive director of the Gerontology Research Group, a visiting scholar in the computer science department at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an assistant researcher in the Department of Surgery, at the David Geffen School of Medicine. Coles had discussed cryonics with several knowledgeable individuals but had rejected it, apparently on the grounds that cracking would make revival unlikely. Further conversations and discussions of the evidence changed his mind late this year.

Dr Coles suffered from pancreatic cancer. In November he entered a hospital in Las Vegas because the cancer had compromised his immune system, allowing bacterial pneumonia to develop, which resulted in serious pulmonary edema. During this time, he decided that cryonics did in fact give him a chance and that he wanted to do it. However, he lacked funding. An unusual agreement was worked out that allowed him to be cryopreserved with only a small fraction of the cost provided by donations and the rest covered by Alcor. In return, Coles agreed to allow Alcor to perform unusual procedures (including removal of his brain from the skull) and research (including tissue biopsy and examination for ice formation and cracking).

In mid-October, a meeting of over 20 top doctors at UCLA resulted in the conclusion that he was not a candidate for any further interventions, and that his prognosis was clinical death in 3-6 months. Coles’ own view was that he had only about two weeks to live – an estimate that proved quite accurate. Because of this, Coles with the support and company of his wife Natalie, wanted to relocate to a hospice in Scottsdale as quickly as possible.

Following a three-day standby, Coles was pronounced at 9:50am on December 3, 2014. Stabilization and cooling was performed on-site prior to a short drive to Alcor. On arrival at Alcor, nasopharyngeal temperature readings were 16.2 and 17.7 C. Perfusion was completed at 4:05 pm and, after last minute discussions of the procedure for brain removal and biopsy, initial preparation of the cephalon was done. The unexpectedly early clinical death and the unfamiliar nature of the procedures in this case created several major challenges, with procedures being revised even as the surgery and perfusion were underway. A local forensic pathologist was hired to come in and perform a craniotomy after the neuro perfusion was complete. At 5:32 pm, biopsy samples were extracted from three locations on each side of the midline of the brain. Cool down was initiated at 5:50 pm.

External examination of the brain will be undertaken, along with a CT scan. We aim to perform a CT scan at the intermediate temperature storage temperature of -140 C. The biopsy samples will be examined using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Camelia Petrozzini Becomes Alcor’s 130th Patient

Camelia Petrozzini, Alcor member A-2745, was pronounced legally dead on December 1, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Petrozzini, a neurocryopreservation member, became Alcor’s 130th patient on December 2, 2014.

A-2745, a member who was on Alcor’s Watch List due to stage 4 lung cancer, was planning on relocating to Scottsdale to enter into hospice when her remaining time was short. Despite an expectation that she had a few months remaining, she was taken into the hospital in serious condition in late November. Alcor was not notified of her admission until the family called to say her physician expected she had 8-12 hours remaining.

Alcor contacted Suspended Animation and requested an immediate deployment to Chicago. While the response team was on the way, Alcor was able to convince the hospital to heparinize the patient, provide chest compressions and immediately begin to cool in the morgue, if she passed before the team arrived.

The patient passed 12 ½ hours later, roughly 60 minutes before Suspended Animation arrived at the hospital. Numerous issues delayed the transfer of the patient out of the hospital but a broken elevator proved to be too much to make the last commercial flight out for the day. To avoid a straight freeze, an air ambulance was secured and the patient arrived at 4 am into Scottsdale, around 21 hours after pronouncement. A neuro procedure commenced and was followed by a quick clean up and reset as another standby had commenced locally.

A-2454 Becomes Alcor’s 129th Patient on 09.16.14

Confidential Alcor member A-2454 was pronounced legally dead on September 16, 2014 at 7:36 am (Arizona time) in Pittsburgh, PA. A-2454, a whole body member, became Alcor’s 129th patient the same day.

On the evening of the first day of Alcor’s annual Board Summit, we received an emergency Telemed notification that an 87-year-old member had suffered a respiratory arrest following a choking incident and was at a hospital in a suburb of Pittsburg, PA. The individual had been placed on a ventilator, during which a 36-hour therapeutic hypothermia protocol was induced, in an attempt to diminish the damage to the brain and heart caused by the period of prolonged hypoxia.

The deployment committee discussed the likelihood of the individual surviving this event, and based upon the preliminary information provided by the medical providers it was considered quite high. The reporting family member, who previously had his mother cryopreserved with Alcor, considered the situation more grave and was determined to have a standby initiated. He offered to pay for the costs associated with the standby if it did not result in a suspension.

Based upon this request, Alcor decided to send Aaron and his team to the hospital. After the 36-hour protocol ended, it was determined that the individual had zero brain function remaining and the family decided to terminate life support. Within 10 minutes of withdrawing the ventilator, the patient’s heart arrested and the team began stabilization and cool down immediately.

An air ambulance was used and paid for by the family with hopes that the reduced travel time might mitigate the damage and increase the perfusability of the brain. Unfortunately, extensive cerebral edema had already occurred and was visible upon establishing the burr holes resulting in the perfusion attempt being stopped shortly thereafter.

Hal Finney Becomes Alcor’s 128th Patient

Hal Finney, Alcor member A-1436 who chose the whole-body option, was pronounced legally deceased on August 28, 2014 at 8:50 am at the age of 58, in Scottsdale, Arizona. That same day, Hal became Alcor’s 128th patient.

Hal, who has had cryopreservation arrangements with the Alcor Foundation for over 20 years, was Bitcoin’s earliest-ever adopter. He was the very first debugger and contributor to Bitcoin’s code and was the recipient of the first Bitcoin transaction in January 2009, receiving 10 bitcoins from Bitcoin’s possibly pseudonymous creator Satoshi Nakamoto. Prior to that, Hal was a lead developer on several console games; graduated from the California Institute of Technology with a BS in engineering; was a noted cryptographic activist, including running the first cryptographically based anonymous remailer; and in 2004 created the first reusable proof of work system before Bitcoin.

“Hal is a rare genius who never had to trade his emotional intelligence to get his intellectual gifts,” said Phil Zimmermann, the creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), the most widely used email encryption software in the world. “He is a fine human being, an inspiration for his attitude toward life. I wish I could be like him.”

Hal was diagnosed with ALS five years ago and placed on Alcor’s Watch List and then monitored over the years as his disease process continued to advance. He made it clear that once he lost the ability to communicate, he did not want his vital functions supported any further but should be allowed to cease functioning and promptly be cryopreserved. “It was actually extremely reassuring as the reality of the diagnosis sunk in,” Hal wrote in 2009. “I was surprised, because I’ve always considered cryonics a long shot. But it turns out that in this kind of situation, it helps tremendously to have reasons for hope, and cryonics provides another avenue for a possibly favorable outcome.”

Hal’s long-stated wishes were to come to Scottsdale once he lost the ability to communicate with family and friends. When that time arrived, he was flown to Scottsdale by air ambulance with his wife, Fran, at his side. Hal and Fran Finney arrived in Scottsdale, Arizona on Tuesday August 26 where Hal was checked into ICU of a hospital near Alcor where the Alcor response team was set-up and waiting.

After the family had a chance to say their goodbyes, Hal’s ventilator was disconnected and he was allowed to breathe naturally, all while medical providers ensured that he had no conscious awareness of the process. Defying doctors’ expectations, he didn’t draw his final breath until 38 hours later, shortly before 9:00 am on Thursday August 28. Immediately after pronouncement of legal death, Alcor’s standby team went into action, restoring circulation, ventilation, administering an array of medications, and initiating external cooling. Cryoprotective perfusion – to eliminate ice formation – has been completed and Hal is now undergoing cool down to -196 degC for long term storage where he be cared for until the day when repair and revival may be possible.

 

Hal paid for his cryopreservation through a combination of life insurance and bitcoins donated by admirers. His wife, Fran, also has arrangements for cryopreservation. She is glad to have a chance to see him again sometime in the future when they may return in restored and rejuvenated bodies.

Robert Revitz becomes Alcor’s 127th Patient

Alcor member, Robert Revitz (A-1963) moved to Scottsdale specifically to be close to Alcor after he started his membership in 2002. He attended monthly Board of Director meetings and local meet-ups when he was able. Struggling from congestive heart failure in addition to bone cancer, he was occasionally admitted into local hospitals for respiratory relief. Alcor’s Medical Response Director, Aaron Drake, closely monitored Robert’s health for several months.

In 2014, he fell at home where he fractured his hip and never fully recovered following hip replacement surgery. His primary care physician referred him to hospice-at-home in August as his health declined to the point where he could no longer care for himself. Hospice nurses who were caring for him provided frequent updates and eventually called to say that he had taken a turn for the worse.

Preferring to conduct a standby in a controlled environment rather than an individual’s home, Robert was transferred by ambulance into the same hospital that Alcor typically uses and a standby began. On August 15th, 2014, less than 24 hours after being admitted Robert, a neuro member, was pronounced and became Alcor’s 127th patient.

–Max More