Ray Solley always figured he was in pretty good shape until one morning his world changed.
"I always get up at 4:15 and go and exercise, and I didn't feel good, and I tried to sit down and that wasn't enough, so I laid down in the floor. Three hours later, I crawled up into the bed because I couldn't get up," said Solley.
What he thought was a stomach virus turned out to be much more.
Two days later he was at a basketball game when he had a heart attack.
"They had a prayer and the referee was throwing the ball up and I just keeled over," Solley said.
After open heart surgery and lots of rehab, he's in much better shape.
For some people who have a "heart stopping episode," it's followed by a neurological event and insufficient blood flow, according to Decatur General Medical ICU Director, James Boyle.
"When the blood starts flowing back to the brain we get a re-profusion injury. So your prognosis and whether you survive, depends on what happens to the brain," said Boyle.
Protocol for restarting the heart and beyond now involves cooling the body to 91 degrees, according to Boyle.
"Just like you might cool an ankle injury. We'll cool the brain and we'll cool it for 24 hours. So after a typical cardiac arrest, we'll go through the typical protocol to restart the heart and we'll go through a period of protecting the brain," said Boyle.
That protection is delivered through cooling blankets and chilled saline in the IV, or it can be done by other methods. After being cooled for 24 hours, Boyle said they will let the body slowly re-warm.
"Cooling the body gives the brain time to repair itself from the brain injury. We're not sure about the mechanism. It may decrease the metabolic rate of the brain - giving it time to heal - or it may increase the inflammatory mediators that incur with the reperfusion of blood back into the brain," said Boyle.
Many who suffer this serious an injury don't live. But this cooling gives them a fighting chance.
Ray Solley's wasn't even the type that would require this procedure. But because he's already had one episode, he's glad to know that a procedure is available in his own backyard.
"It's very comforting to know we have these facilities here," Solley said.
Tools imperative for protecting "Your Health."