Heart Attack: Delaying Brain Death In Cardiac Arrest Victims


Heart Attack: Delaying Brain Death in Cardiac Arrest Victims

As the victim of a heart attack stops breathing, a process of irreversible brain damage starts to occur within the first three or four minutes.  Or, does it?

Years ago, while researching heart attack and cases of sudden cardiac arrest, I stumbled upon an article in Newsweek Magazine about a boy drowning in icy waters.  Despite being submerged for over half an hour, he was pulled from the frigid river, resuscitated, and lived to recover completely.  He suffered no brain damage, and I wondered how this could happen.

My investigations shifted to how some people can apparently drown in cold water, have their heart stop beating (as in acute myocardial infarction or cardiac arrest,) stop breathing, and upon resuscitation — sometimes up to an hour later — completely recover and experience no brain damage. 

I wondered if a person’s chance for survival from a heart attack without brain damage could be extended past the 4-minute mark, as if he were submerged in cold water. 

My investigations became centered around why there is a delay of brain damage and brain death in cold water drowning victims and could that transfer to heart attack victims.

Brain Injury

An injury to the brain occurs when the flow of blood is disrupted.  It’s called a hypoxic-anoxic brain injury or “HAI.”  Hypoxic means partial lack of oxygen, anoxic means total lack of oxygen.

When oxygen deprivation to the brain is caused by an internal event like a heart attack, or acute myocardial infarction, it is considered an Hypoxicischemic injury – or HII.  The most frequent cause is from cardiac arrest.     

Driven to Research

I became curious… Every day I thought about “What if?”

What if…  we could delay brain death by submersing the heart attack victim in cold water? 

What if…  in an emergency – a victim could be placed in cold water at the first signs of cardiac arrest.

What if…  we could trigger this delay of brain damage in the event of an acute myocardial infarction by placing the victim in a cold shower?  What if…  that would delay the onset of an hypoxic brain damage injury?  What if… there was just something we could do to delay brain death in heart attack victims – like in cold water drownings…

The real question remained: In an emergency can the delay of brain damage be extended in cardiac arrest victims? 

If this were possible, to delay brain damage past four minutes, it would allow critical extra time before brain damage would start to occur to allow emergency personnel to reach heart attack victims and apply CPR, chest compressions or other therapy.

What if… you lived in the country and your spouse had a heart attack, and you didn’t know CPR?  Would submersion in cold water delay the onset of brain damage?  Because your choices of what you can do would be very poor without this kind of option.  You could call for help or an ambulance, then you could watch.  Sorry if this doesn’t sound good, but that’s the reality of it.

The questions kept me up at nights for years.

I kept thinking about it and thinking about it – what is it about cold water that delayed brain damage?  Can this be used in heart attack victims?  What if… if it worked?  How many lives it would save. 

I spent the nights and weekends, and the next few summers in the Philadelphia medical hospital libraries.  Days and nights of research.  Until I figured out the answer.  And here it is.

Here’s how to delay brain damage in heart attack victims.

My research into cold water drowning victims showed that the hypothermia created by the cold water helps to delay brain damage in cold water drowning victims.  But that’s not the specific reason cold water drowning victims survive up to an hour with no brain damage. 

The specific reason cold-water drowning victims survival without brain damage is due to the triggering of a natural reflex called the Mammalian Diving Reflex.  This oxygen-conserving reflex – found in all mammals – is responsible for delaying brain death and saving cold water drowning victim’s lives without brain injury, or HAI. 

My research also uncovered that the specific trigger point of initiating the diving reflex is a facial immersion in cold water.  Just the face.  Cold water — face only, triggers this entire reflex. 


When the oxygen supply to the brain of a person is shut off by heart attack or acute myocardial infarction, I believe it is possible to delay the onset of brain damage by triggering the mammalian diving reflex. 

The Dobkin Technique to trigger the diving reflex is to apply wet, cold compresses TO THE FACE of the victim.  When a person has a heart attack and stops breathing, immediately apply cold water, cold wet towels, or cold compresses (58 degrees or colder) to the face of the victim specifically covering the eyes.

The eyes, the ophthalmic nerve, is the exact trigger point to initiate the diving reflex — and delay the onset of brain damage formerly thought to occur within 3 to 4 minutes of oxygen deprivation to the brain.

The most apparent and immediate application for initiating the Dobkin Technique is to delay brain damage in heart attack victims. Heart attacks are the fourth largest cause of death in the U.S.  Using The Dobkin Trigger to initiate the diving reflex would expand the 3 or 4 minute safety window by delaying brain damage and brain death up to a half hour, maybe longer in heart attack victims.

The Dobkin Technique to delay brain death in heart attack victims will also work in victims of suffocation (asphyxia), electrocution, drug overdose, warm water drownings (which does not trigger this reflex), chest trauma – all these people could be helped by this easy to use, time-buying procedure of a simple cold wet towel or cold water compress to the face to delay the onset of brain damage. 

You can help.  You can help a lot.  Simply be aware you may be able to save someone’s life by initiating the Dobkin Technique – the immediate application of cold water or cold wet towels to the face of a heart attack victim in an emergency.

The Dobkin Technique is a simple-to-do, non-invasive time-buying procedure to delay brain damage.  It can be explained over the phone.  The procedure can be  done someone who is not trained; or by a child.

Please help.  Please report any instances of cold water drownings or the application of The Dobkin Technique to Delay Brain Damage to the writer – we’ll make sure to post all results.

You can make a real difference. Right here, right now. Pass it on. Publish this article on your website.  Please forward this article to family and friends, anyone you care about.  This simple technique may save someone’s life. Maybe the life of someone you know – or the life of one of their children.  Thanks.