CROWN POINT | Greg Wornhoff said he doesn’t recall the therapeutic hypothermia treatment he recently received at Franciscan St. Anthony Health – Crown Point, but he knows it saved his life.
“Without that, I don’t know what the outcome might have been,” the 56-year-old, retired Cedar Lake resident said, adding, “My doctor looks at me funny, because I have no history and have trouble and don’t fit the mold for the congestive heart failure I had. I’m not overweight or retaining water and unless I’m excited, my blood pressure isn’t high.”
Greg, a Cedar Lake town councilman and former volunteer firefighter, also was instrumental in bringing advanced life support services to the town — services likewise credited for his outcome.
Dawn Wornhoff, his wife of 33 years, recalls everything about the incident and says, “I am a firm believer in therapeutic hypothermia. Greg is a lucky guy.”
She recalled that after having a stressful morning, her husband later was stricken while assisting a fuel delivery truck driver outside of their home.
“He was helping the driver pull the fuel hose back to the truck. The driver came to the door and told me to call 911. I found Greg face down, lying on the hose, blue in the face and not breathing. I started had CPR when the police came and until the medics arrived. They worked on him for 10 minutes before taking him to the hospital. It didn’t look good,” she said. Dawn’s quick action likewise is credited with helping to save his life.
As Greg was about to begin the treatment in the Emergency Department, Dawn said he appeared to be dying; but a week later, he walked out of the hospital, also having had two stents installed in the catheterization lab to remove significant arterial blockage.
Therapeutic hypothermia, which recently became available at the hospital, is a brain-saver and life-saver for heart attack patients — and relatively rare in Northwest Indiana.
Dr. Daniel Netluch, chief of emergency services at Franciscan St. Anthony Health – Crown Point, who was instrumental in bringing the treatment to Franciscan Alliance, said the idea’s origins can be traced to Hippocrates and to Napoleon’s army during the French revolution of the 1800s.
Fast-forward to modern times, when, following years of studies worldwide, the idea saw a breakthrough in 2002, when independent studies in Australia and in Europe, in which cardiac arrest patients were resuscitated, then gradually cooled to 32 degrees Centigrade, saw what Netluch described as remarkable outcomes.
“Neurological recovery rates went from about 2 percent to 55 to 60 percent, with this procedure.”
Cooling, provided by jell-wrapped pads used with the cooling machine, decreases the body’s metabolic rate and thus protects the brain from neurotoxins that usually attack 24 to 48 hours after cardiac arrest.
“We cool the patient down for 24 hours, deal with the body’s metabolic changes, and then slowly bring the body back to its normal temperature,” Netluch said.
After her husband began receiving the treatment, Dawn said he subsequently started squeezing hers and their children’s hands and wiggling his toes. Soon, he was talking to them.
“I thank God they had therapeutic hypothermia at the hospital,” she added. “And I thank the hospital staff for everything they did.”
Said Greg, “If it weren’t for what the hospital people and that machine did, I wouldn’t be here.”
About Franciscan St. Anthony Health – Crown Point
A trusted leader in providing faith-based, integrated health care, Franciscan St. Anthony Health – Crown Point is a full-service, acute-care medical center. Our facilities have undergone major expansions and construction designed to meet the growing healthcare needs of our surrounding communities. Franciscan St. Anthony has positioned itself as a driving force in technology and high quality patient care and will continue to be at the forefront of new medical advances.