Aaron was unconscious and close to dying as he was wheeled into the emergency department at Washington Regional Medical Center on a Halloween morning.
Earlier that morning, as Aaron drove to school, his car swerved and plunged into a river. According to the police report, his car traveled about 75 feet through the air and then dropped 55 feet down to the river in about five feet of very cold water.
Aaron received amazing care at the site by paramedics, firemen, law enforcement officers and other people who stopped to help. Aaron's heart had stopped and the team continued to CPR and electrical defibrillation. Miraculously, Aaron's heart began to beat when he was transferred to the hospital.
"Because Aaron had suffered complete cardiac arrest, out immediate concern was to keep his heart beating," states emergency medicine specialist Dr. Lee Gray. "Our goal in a trauma case is to assess, treat and stabilize the patient as quickly as possible. The icy water had reduced his body temperature dramatically. We began warming him up and gave him medications to help regulate his heart function."
Aaron was transferred to the intensive care unit after he was stabilized in the emergency department. The ICU team quickly assessed that Aaron might fit the criteria for therapeutic hypothermia. The process cools the body down to about 91 degrees and keeps it there for 24 hours. Lowering the patient's heart rate and metabolism for this short period and then gradually warming him back up has been proven to help reduce brain damage related to oxygen deprivation after a cardiac arrest.
After three days, Aaron was reaching for his breathing tube. "After the first time he reached for the tube, Aaron just started getting better and better," states Penny, Aaron's mom. "There's not a doubt in my mind that the hypothermic treatment helped save his life."
Within a week, Aaron was up and walking with the assistance of his physical therapist. He was discharged from WRMC to continue his therapy at Arkansas Children's Hospital. He returned home a month later.
"The care he got at Washington Regional was above and beyond anything we could have ever expected," states Penny. "There's no way for us to thank the people at Washington Regional enough for all of their hard work and the care they gave to Aaron. Everyone there, especially the nurses, went the extra mile to help our son survive."