Herb Rawlings doesn't remember much about this year's Cooper River Bridge Run after he, his younger daughter and her husband split up at the base of bridge's incline.
But minutes later, nearing the crest, the 74-year-old Mount Pleasant man collapsed, suffering his second of two heart attacks in nearly nine years. Luckily, he was near emergency medical crews and received immediate treatment.
Part of it involved a new procedure called therapeutic hypothermia. He was the first person to receive the treatment from Charleston County Emergency Medical Services.
The procedure involves inducing hypothermia by injecting a patient, after a pulse is revived, with intravenous fluids that have been cooled on ice. The IV lowers body temperature and reduces the damage caused by the attack. Once at the hospital, the patient is placed in cooling blankets for up to 24 hours — dropping the temperature of the brain down to about 90 degrees.
Therapeutic hypothermia, which was approved by state health officials last year and implemented by the county in March, can improve survival and decrease the risk of brain damage and other post-cardiac arrest syndrome symptoms that contribute to a high death rate of patients who have had their pulse restarted.
At a Monday news conference on James Island, Rawlings talked publicly about the incident, as officials with EMS and the Medical University of South Carolina touted the procedure and its potential for saving lives.
Charleston County EMS Director Don Lundy said science backs up the benefits of the procedure, which is inexpensive and simple — something he underscored by simply placing a cooler with ice on the top of a podium.
Dr. Edward Jauch, an associate professor of emergency medicine and neuroscience at MUSC, said that 40,000 Americans who suffer emergency heart attacks could be saved every year by employing the therapeutic hypothermia, yet Charleston County EMS is among only 6 percent of departments nationwide that are offering it.
"By Mr. Rawlings' success, this is something that all of us should take great pride in," Jauch said. "It's a great therapy and we should be proud of race organizers for having all the steps in place in this chain of survival — with early and good CPR, early defibrillation and early initiation of hypothermia. This was something that was well-timed."
Rawlings was the second of two men who have suffered a heart attack on the bridge during the Bridge Run in the past five years.
In April 2004, 47-year-old James Joseph Scott III died while running up the incline with his 20-year-old daughter nearby.
Rawlings and his wife of 52 years, Beverly, credited part of his recovery to his physical fitness.
Rawlings, who has never been overweight or had high blood pressure or cholesterol, started running after suffering his first heart attack and undergoing quintuple bypass surgery. He was a regular participant in the Bridge Run.
"Two days before this year's Bridge Run, he went running on Sullivan's Island. He ran five miles in 50 minutes and told me, 'I'm going to smoke this Bridge (Run).' His goal was to get in under 60 minutes," she said. "He didn't quite make it, but if he hadn't have been in such good shape, he would be where he is now."