Emergency Department Patient Stories
Going the Extra Mile with Code Chill
Eric Robinson of Denver doesn't remember anything about December 10, 2013. His wife Amanda fills in the blanks for him. Every moment is etched in her mind.
"I went to work like always," said Eric. "I don't really remember even being there that day. My coworkers tell me I kept complaining of chest pains, but I blew it off as heartburn."
"I got a call from one of his coworkers that Eric had collapsed, stopped breathing and his heart quit beating," recalled Amanda. "They told me they had shocked his heart and he was headed to the hospital in Waverly." She was terrified.
"I was panicked," said Amanda. "I had to be strong for my kids, even though I was a wreck inside." Waverly Health Center told Amanda Eric was being transferred to UnityPoint Health - Allen Hospital in Waterloo."
Waverly staff explained Allen Hospital does this protocol called Code Chill, which would increase Eric's chances for survival,"said Amanda. "They needed to get him there fast."
"It's called targeted temperature management, or Code Chill," said Dr. Christopher Hill, Allen's Emergency Department medical director. "Cardiac arrest patients have a high risk of brain damage. Code Chill helps prevent that."
Lowering brain temperature even a few degrees decreases brain damage. During Code Chill, doctors, nurses and tech slower a patient's temperature to 91.4 - 96.8 degrees based upon multiple variables.
"I'm amazed at the Code Chill teamwork,"said Dr. Hill. "I told one patient's family, 'Your loved one is surrounded by angels.' The team at Allen works so well together,trying to do what's best for the patient."
It takes several hours to lower the patient's temperature to the target, where it remains for 24 hours. It takes another 18 hours to slowly rewarm the patient back to normal temperature. Then it takes up to 72 hours to determine if the patient will recover fully.
"The hardest part is telling families I can give them no information for five days,"said Dr. Hill. "But we know what we are doing saves lives. It's much more effective than what we were doing before we could manage body temperature."
"After four days of not knowing whether Eric would make it, he started to wake up," said Amanda. "His nurse asked him if he knew who she was."
"I told everyone Amanda was my wife, and I knew my children, but I didn't know where I was or what had happened," said Eric. "I initially struggled with some short-term memory loss. I was at Allen for eight days."
"I was happy with the care we received at Allen," Amanda said. "They were great about keeping us informed every step of the way. Eric went through a lot. Emotionally, it took a toll on all of us."
Allen Hospital uses Code Chill technology frequently enough to need another set of equipment. The Allen Auxiliary answered the call, contributing $43,000 to buy an entire second unit.
"Code Chill is intensive and expensive,"said Dr. Hill. "Allen Hospital covers the entire additional cost without reimbursement, and it's the right thing to do. We give everyone the chance to survive. We can't improve patients' outcomes if we don't try."