Ninety six minutes. Eleven shocks by defibrillator. Two dozen rescuers pounding his chest in shifts to bring vital oxygen to his limp body. A helicopter, even. That's what it took to revive 54-year old Howard Snitzer this month. Oh, and a little celebrated thing called a capnography machine that let everyone know that he was still capable of being brought back from the brink of death.
A capnography machine is simply a device that detects CO2 levels. By monitoring a patient's breath, rescuers can tell if the body is absorbing oxygen and expunging CO2—even if they're unconscious, without a pulse, and the patient is only gaining circulation and air by chest compressions. Capnography machines work on the idea that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation—the more infrared reflected back, the less CO2 in the blood or air.
The thing is, capnography was until recently only used for lung disease diagnosis and to check anaesthesia effects on patients. Using it in the field to save lives is an amazing development.
Previous logic held true by first responders was that if someone's chest wasn't beating for 20 minutes, they were a goner. By using capnography machines in first response the people doing the CPR have concrete evidence on whether or not to throw in the towel or keep on fighting. Sometimes for ninety six minutes straight. [WSJ, wiki]
*The image above is of a capnography machine I found in a medical catalog, but not necessarily the kind used in the story above or by first responders.