Tennessee Paramedics Save Lady Gaga Fan

A machine slowly lowered Thornton's body temperature and maintained it for 48 hours.


 
 

NICOLE YOUNG, Knoxville News-Sentinel | | Tuesday, April 26, 2011


NASHVILLE - Crystal Thornton couldn't wait to see Lady Gaga at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night.

Then she died.

She was clinically dead for 10 minutes before paramedics were able to revive her at the arena.

Today, the Lyles, Tenn., resident is recovering at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where her doctors say it's a miracle she's alive.

On Tuesday, the 33-year-old Gaga fan was enjoying the opening act with her best friend, Christina Tugman, 32, when, according to Tugman, Thornton passed out and started twitching.

"I thought she was having a seizure," said Tugman, a Nashville resident.

"I got an usher, but I thought he wasn't moving fast enough, so I went and got a policeman and told him she wasn't breathing."

A minute later, Jerry Jones, EMT-IV supervisor with Vanderbilt's LifeFlight Event Medicine program, was at Thornton's side.

"Her head was laid back in her seat, and she did not have a pulse," Jones said. "I immediately got Bridgestone security, and they helped me move her out of the seat. She was about halfway down in the row, so we moved her down the stairs and into the hallway outside the arena so we could work on her.

"We didn't get a pulse back until she went into the ambulance 10 minutes after we got the call."

To save Thornton, Jones and paramedic Shane Clark used a portable automated external defibrillator and performed CPR for more than five minutes.

She was taken by ambulance to Vanderbilt's emergency department, where doctors began to cool her body temperature to about 89 degrees to reduce the risk of brain injury.

A machine slowly lowered Thornton's body temperature and maintained it for 48 hours. She was kept in a coma until Thursday afternoon, said cardiologist John McPherson, director of the coronary care unit at Vanderbilt.

"She's very lucky," McPherson said.

"She doesn't have typical heart disease. She has a genetic condition, a defect in one of the heart muscle proteins that causes an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle.

"It can and did, in this case, lead to sudden death," McPherson said.

Vanderbilt spokesman Craig Boerner said that medical personnel define death as being "without a heartbeat for over five minutes."

McPherson said Thornton had no medical history of heart problems.

Thornton's condition, known medically as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, affects 1 in about 500 to 1,000 people, McPherson said.

"It's not rare, and most people don't know they have it until a life-threatening event happens," he said.



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