Alcor’s 94th patient

Wesley du Charme (Wes, A-1614), a member for nearly 14 years, was recently diagnosed with end-stage pancreatic cancer after battling brain cancer for an extended period of time. After determining that additional treatments would be futile and the time required for treatments would only reduce the likelihood he would be well enough for travel, Wes and his wife packed their bags and flew to Arizona. The flight was challenging for Wes, given his condition, but he said that getting close to Alcor was worth the effort.

Wes was admitted to Hospice of the Valley and after five days as an inpatient, Wes took a turn for the worse. Having just completed Yumi’s cryopreservation, Alcor was back on standby with little recuperation time. On April 15th, about 30 hours after Yumi was pronounced, Wes became Alcor’s 94th patient. Again, the Alcor standby team was on-site and began stabilization immediately upon pronouncement, arriving at Alcor with the patient only 32 minutes later.

Case Summary: A-2469 (90th patient)

Templeton, CA — January 25th, 2010
Alcor received emergency notification that the mother of one our members had tragically died as a result of a house fire. Apparently, a space heater within the home had caused a small fire. While attempting to douse the fire, it spread out of control and she was unable to contain it. We believe she suffered a heart attack and collapsed as she exited the home. There was some burn trauma to the patient, however it was limited to the lower half of her body.

While her son is an Alcor member and her former husband has already been cryopreserved, she had not actively signed up for membership during her lifetime. Upon learning of the incident, the son wanted to provide his mother with one final gift, and immediately began to pursue signing her up through a third party membership. This requires Alcor Board approval and has to meet specific requirements before a vote is taken to grant the request. While this process takes some time to complete, it was handled on an emergency basis to prevent unnecessary delays. Another obstacle to overcome, due to the legal implications of her death, was the medical examiner is required to ensure that no foul play had been involved. The son persuaded the medical examiner to limit the scope of the autopsy to an external Commuted Tomography (CT) scan of the brain. This satisfied the legal requirements of the county while maintaining the structural integrity of the patient’s brain.

In anticipation of being granted authority to receive the patient, Alcor deployed Transport Coordinator Aaron Drake along with the equipment needed to prepare and transport her back to Alcor. Since that county’s medical examiner completes his work at the various funeral homes, rather than at one central location, the patient was maintained at a temperature of 35 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the process, thus limiting the amount of ischemia that occurs in comparison to a normothermic environment. As there were no major airports near the rural community that could handle large cargo, the decision was made to drive the individual back to Alcor. Although the legal process was expedited, it became clear that enough time had elapsed that a straight freeze was the only option remaining, due to accumulating blood coagulation and loss of vascular integrity. Once final approval was given, the patient was packaged in dry ice and transported to Scottsdale, AZ.

Member A-2469 is now our 90th patient. A full case report will be issued.

Case Summary: A-2219 (89th patient)

Tampa, FL — December 3rd, 2009
Alcor received emergency notification that a member had passed away, alone, at home. A relative of his had become concerned with an absence of communication and requested assistance from local police to perform a welfare check. The family’s worst fears were confirmed when authorities found the individual had passed away, possibly one or two days prior. As the family was aware and supportive of his desire to be cryopreserved, they notified Alcor. They also informed Alcor that police were taking the body to the medical examiner for an autopsy to be performed, due to the individual’s relatively young age.

We attempted to contact the medical examiner’s office to explain that he had donated his body to Alcor and that his release was a time sensitive matter. We asked that he be kept as cold as possible and explained that he did not want to be autopsied. We were informed that a full autopsy was likely to take place the next day, so we immediately began working with legal counsel in an attempt to avoid or limit the autopsy, especially with respect to the individual’s brain, and expedite release.

Alcor immediately sent Transport Coordinator Aaron Drake to Tampa to begin logistical preparations and to have a representative on site, if needed. The death was deemed suspicious and, after some consultation with the medical examiner’s office, our legal counsel indicated the only way to avoid the autopsy was to obtain a court order. We proceeded to file our legal pleading and an expedited hearing was held the next week. While the legal proceedings took longer than preferred, our member was kept very cold through the duration. In the end, the medical examiner’s office fulfilled the legal obligations of their office by performing only a limited autopsy that did not include the brain, releasing the patient to Alcor thereafter.

Suspended Animation relieved Aaron in Florida, so he could conduct the previously scheduled Southern California team training, and assisted in the preparation and shipping of our patient to Alcor in Scottsdale, AZ. Member A-2219 is now our 89th patient. A full case report will be issued.

Case Summary A-2435 (Member A-2435 is now our 88th patient

Phoenix, AZ–August 9, 2009
Alcor was contacted by a member who informed us that his wife, also an Alcor member, had become gravely ill and they were traveling to Mexico for specialized treatments, in an attempt to extend her life. In the event that their efforts became futile, they intended to return to the United States and fly directly to Scottsdale to be near Alcor for the remaining days of her life.

Alcor’s deployment committee kept in close contact with the family along with her medical providers in the U.S. and abroad. Her physicians were aware of her cryopreservation directives and eventually determined that her time would be better spent getting closer to Alcor rather than continuing treatment and risk potential delays while crossing the U.S. border, after clinical death.

The family arrived in Scottsdale by Air Ambulance while Alcor facilitated her direct admittance into a cryonic’s friendly hospice provider in the Phoenix valley.

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Case Summary A-2420 (Member A-2420 is now our 87th patient

St. Louis, MO–July 25, 2009
Alcor received notice from an extended care facility that one of our members was experiencing a significant decline in health and therefore the family was in the process of changing the patient to hospice care. Alcor’s deployment committee was actively involved in monitoring the situation when it was decided to have an Alcor representative at the patient’s bedside to better determine when to initiate a full team response. Aaron Drake traveled to St. Louis to interact with the patient, family and medical staff.

Throughout the course of the seven days on location, we continually ramped up the level of readiness as the patient’s condition worsened. Initially, the full team supply kit was shipped and pre-positioned. Then, two Suspended Animation, Inc. (SA) team members drove the SA response vehicle from Florida to St. Louis. And finally, we requested a deployment from Catherine Baldwin for the full SA team including perfusionist and surgeon to provide support as clinical death was imminent. The timing was excellent as the patient experienced clinical death within 12 hours of the SA team’s arrival.

The patient was subsequently flown to Scottsdale where a neuropreservation was performed. Member A-2420 is now our 87th patient.

Case Summary A-2061 (Member A-2061 is now our 86th Patient

Colorado Springs, CO–June 7, 2009
One of our members, A-2061 suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Colorado Springs, CO. The gentleman had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years and had 24-hour home health care. At the request of the member and the cooperation of the home health care program, Alcor had pre-positioned a mini-medical support kit with instructions for medical professionals, to administer after pronouncement. In the event of a sudden and unexpected clinical death, these important initial medications could be administered, while simultaneously cooling the body with ice. This would accomplish a key first step in the stabilization process that would provide Alcor additional time to respond to the scene while maintaining the hope for a quality cryopreservation. Since this was the exact scenario that played out, our early efforts paid off.

The home health providers witnessed the member’s arrest and acted quickly. Local paramedics were unable to resuscitate the patient and terminated efforts on scene. The Sheriff’s office was able to assist in expediting the process of pronouncement which allowed the medical assistants and family members to begin Alcor’s initial stabilization protocols. Aaron Drake took an immediate flight to Colorado with the remainder of the needed stabilization equipment. Upon arrival, he met with the funeral home where the patient was being kept in a 34 degree Fahrenheit environment. After completing the remainder of the stabilization in the middle of the night, the patient was packaged and prepped for airline shipment back to Phoenix, which occurred later that same day.

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Case Summary: A-1407

On September 8, 2008, Alcor member A-1407 suffered cardiac arrest while snorkeling in Barbados and was subsequently pronounced legally dead. He was traveling with a companion who knew to contact Alcor immediately. Because of the circumstances and the local legal requirements, an autopsy was unavoidable. After some negotiation, the coroner limited the investigation to the minimum necessary to determine the cause of death (heart attack), and he did not touch the brain.

Alcor received good cooperation from a funeral director, who had once attended a seminar on cryonics. The decision was made to cool the patient to dry ice temperature in Barbados because cryoprotection would not be possible at Alcor due to the long time period of clinical death, and starting deep cooling sooner would stop further damage that time at warmer temperatures would otherwise cause. The paperwork required to transport the patient was extensive, and necessitated the police conclude their investigation. Alcor involved the local US embassy to expedite the process, and the Deputy Consul in particular was quite helpful.

The patient was air shipped via Miami, where he was removed from the plane in order to replenish the supply of dry ice. Flight schedules being what they were, the patient then spent the next night in Atlanta before finally reaching Phoenix. All told, it took nearly five days to receive the patient.

Unfortunately little dry ice remained upon arrival at Alcor, and the patient’s temperature was near 0 degrees Celsius rather than the -79 degree temperature of dry ice. The patient was cooled back down toward liquid nitrogen temperature for long-term storage. A-1407 became Alcor’s 84th patient.

This case led to extensive discussion and review within Alcor of procedures for shipping patients on dry ice, especially overseas, with a view toward preventing the problems of this case from recurring in the future.

Recent Cryopreservation

One of our members, A-1212, suffered cardiac arrest in Hawaii last week. The gentleman had suffered a fall and been released from the hospital, and then he fell a second time. On this admission to the hospital, he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Treatment with antibiotics was going well, but his heart stopped suddenly. We were not notified until between 15 and 30 minutes after pronouncement. Negotiations with the hospital for the application of our emergency protocol did not go quickly or smoothly. Ultimately, they did agree to begin surface cooling and administered an intranasal dose of heparin (They had removed all IV lines before we were called and were unwilling to place a new one.) before releasing him to the funeral home.

Initial negotiations with funeral homes in Hawaii were also difficult, as none were willing to commit to rapid transit. We went through three separate facilities to find one that would carry out our instructions. With all the delays, it was a full 42 hours after pronouncement that the patient arrived at Alcor, which proved faster than the original 3-4 day estimates.

The decision was made to attempt cryoprotection. We know from previous cases that vitrification is achievable after 30 hours and application of the medication protocol and surface cooling, and we decided to see if it was possible to improve our understanding of the limits to vitrification. It was quickly established that 42 hours with little surface cooling and virtually no meds, vitrification was not possible. We then straight-froze the brain.

During this case, there was much discussion of whether or not to remove the brain, chemically fix it and do a diffusion cryoprotection. Because insufficient data exists to tell us whether this would have resulted in superior structural preservation, we chose to use our standard protocol.

This patient received our 5th cryopreservation of the year, and he is our 83rd patient.

Two Recent Cryopreservations

In the past ten weeks, we’ve deployed six standby operations and have performed three stabilizations and cryopreservations (including A-2340 discussed in a previous entry).

Of the two most recent cases one patient required two standbys and the other three in advance of cardiac arrest. They were performed on opposite coasts, with the first patient coming from California and the second from Florida. Both patients were successfully stabilized, transported, cryoprotected and cooled.

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Alcor Cryopreserves 80th Patient

Over the weekend, Alcor completed an unusual non-confidential, last-minute case: the cryopreservation of Rose Selkovitch, A-2340. Rose was nearly 102 years old at the time of her cryopreservation.

Because of the last-minute nature of this case, Rose passed away as the standby team was still en route to her Escondido, California location on 29 March 2008. The transport vehicle had been deployed from Arizona with two team members and a member of the southern California team drove down. Due to advance negotiations, a dose of heparin was administered by hospice personnel after her pronouncement at approximately 20:30, chest compressions performed to circulate, and she was packed in ice upon pronouncement of legal death. By the time, the standby team and the funeral director were on-site, the cannulations completed and the washout ready to begin, Rose’s temperature was at 6 degrees C. An equipment problem and concerns about pumping the warmer blood from her chest cavity into her brain (which would warm it up significantly) contributed to a decision to not do a washout in California, but instead begin transport to Arizona for cryoprotection.

Transit paperwork was received in a timely fashion, and the transport concluded without incident. The surgery revealed that Rose had extremely large carotid arteries, and our surgeon suspected there was an aneurysm deeper in the carotid on the right side. Nevertheless, the blood washout went extremely well, resulting in a hematocrit reading that was undetectable. Cryoprotection began at 19:34 on 30 March and concluded at 00:33. Target concentrations of cryoprotectant were achieved in the brain, and first-stage cooling was begun shortly thereafter.

Support from hospice personnel and the local funeral home were instrumental in this case going well. Being just five weeks shy of her 102nd birthday makes Rose the oldest cryopreserved patient at Alcor today. She is our 80th patient.