(CBS) PHILADELPHIA Doctors in Philadelphia are testing a revolutionary new treatment that is restoring life and bringing people back from the dead. CBS Station KYW-TV in Philadelphia Medical Reporter Stephanie Stahl has details.
During cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating. It's a trauma alert and people are often declared dead within minutes.
But now doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Hospital are bringing people back from the dead.
Dr. Lance Becker and his team are challenging fate with breakthrough new treatments that could save hundreds of thousands of lives.
61-year-old Bill Bondar is living proof that people can be brought back from the dead.
"I didn't know I died, I didn't feel anything, I still don't believe it," Bill said.
"I looked at his face, and I was looking at a dead man," Bill's wife Monica said.
It happened just after the couple left a jam session. Bill collapsed outside their home, lifeless.
"That was the most frightening thing I ever saw in my life and I knew my husband was gone. He was gone," said Monica.
Paramedics were able to restart his heart, but that's just part of the battle. Cells continue to die, and there can be damage to vital organs like the brain, that could be fatal.
Bill ended up at Penn, where he got the new experimental treatment of chilled saline that's injected.
Cooling pads are then wrapped around a patient. The body temperature is normally 98 degrees, but cooling brings it down to 92 degrees. Doctors keep it there for about 24 hours. This process is called intentional hypothermia.
"It decreases cellular injury when the cells are deprived of oxygen, so with less injury we are able to do a better job of getting people back," said Dr. Becker.
A similar cooling therapy was used on Buffalo Bills football player Kevin Everett, after a devastating spinal cord injury. He's now able to move after getting a quick infusion of cold saline.
But Dr. Becker said the cooling therapy needs to be faster, so they're developing a slushy type saline that contains ice particles. It would be injected into the blood stream to quickly reduce body temperature.
"We really believe that that is going to save lives in a way that we haven't even seen," said Dr. Becker.
"I feel lucky," said Bill.
After being dead for a few minutes back in May, Bill along with Monica are now back to enjoying their boating life, with a whole new perspective.
"Our grasp on life is so tenuous. It's so fragile that it doesn't really matter what you worry about tomorrow because you might not have it. You have to live as if you're going to die tomorrow," said Monica.
Bill now has an internal defibrillator and is taking medications.
The experimental cooling treatment at HUP can only be used on certain patients. But doctors expect it will eventually become a critical standard of care for saving lives.
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