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Heart Attack Patient Saved by Hypothermia Therapy

In Brief: 

Patient Michael Colella survived
cardiac arrest thanks to the efforts of
Crozer-Keystone paramedics and
specialists.
  • On the morning of March 3, 2010, Michael Colella began having a heart attack that resulted in a life-threatening arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Luckily, Delaware County Memorial Hospital paramedics were called to the scene and shocked his heart to a normal rhythm. After that, they began treating him with hypothermia therapy.
  • Hypothermia therapy is a cooling process that slows down the metabolism in the brain and helps to minimize damage that typically occurs after the heart stops and blood flow to the brain is interrupted.
  • DCMH is one of the only hospitals in the Philadelphia region to have paramedics begin hypothermia therapy at the scene.

Michael Colella doesn’t remember much about the early morning of March 3, 2010. While sleeping, he began having a heart attack that resulted in a life-threatening arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). Luckily, Delaware County Memorial Hospital paramedics were called to the scene and shocked his heart to a normal rhythm. After that, they began treating him with hypothermia therapy. He believes it’s what saved him from having permanent brain damage.

“I spent about a week and half in the hospital after the incident,” recalls Colella, a Delaware County resident. “While I still have a little bit of pain and I’m slightly weak, I feel great.”

Hypothermia therapy slows down the metabolism in the brain and helps to minimize the brain’s demand for blood flow. It protects the brain cells from damage, a common problem following cardiac arrest. During hypothermia therapy, a patient’s body temperature, normally around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, is dropped to a range of 91 to 94 degrees. The body remains in this state for at least 24 hours and is then slowly warmed up. Hypothermia is performed at both DCMH and Crozer.

“The sooner hypothermia therapy begins, the greater the chances of a positive outcome—and this was the case with Mr. Colella,” says Edward LaPorta, M.D., chief of the Section of Cardiology at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. “The quick actions of his girlfriend, Diane, who began CPR while waiting for the paramedics to arrive, coupled with the medics arriving so fast, are what really saved his life. The paramedics began the cooling process right in Mr. Colella’s home by injecting cold saline into his veins.”

DCMH is one of the only hospitals in the Philadelphia region to have paramedics begin hypothermia therapy at the scene.

“When Mr. Colella arrived at DCMH, we continued with the hypothermia therapy process,” says Shannon Hanshaw, R.N., a nurse in the DCMH Emergency Department who treated Colella. “The next step after the saline injection was to place cooling wraps that are attached to a machine that pumps out cold water around the patient’s legs and torso. Medications were also introduced to keep the patient in an unconscious state so that the body did not exert energy by shivering. Because the therapy process had already begun, we were able to treat Mr. Colella quickly and successfully.”

“After spending a few days in the ICU, Mr. Colella was transferred to Crozer-Chester Medical Center for more evaluation,” says Thomas Prestel, M.D., chief of the Section of Pulmonary Disease at Delaware County Memorial Hospital, who treated Mr. Colella in the Intensive Care Unit. “After finding the cause of his heart attack, Mr. Colella was released. He was required to have six weeks of recuperation with cardiac rehabilitation. Since the incident, Mr. Colella has had a cardiac defibrillator inserted to avoid any future arrhythmias from occurring.”

The defibrillator was placed by Crozer interventional cardiologist Michael Kleinman, M.D.

“My family and I were so happy with the care and attention we received from DCMH and Crozer,” Colella adds. “From the paramedics to the people who delivered my food, everyone was so kind and helpful. I feel blessed that I can still do a lot of the activities that I loved to do before the heart attack — like play drums and paint. Even though I can’t operate a real helicopter anymore like I used to, I’m still well enough to fly with my simulator on the computer, which I truly love to do.”

Colella adds that “I am extremely thankful that my girlfriend was able to administer CPR while waiting for the paramedics. If at least one person in every household is trained in CPR, it could make all the difference in a situation such as mine.”

For information about Crozer-Keystone’s emergency services, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit www.crozerkeystone.org.

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