The Cryonics Institute’s 103rd Patient
The Cryonics Institute's 103rd patient is a 79-year-old woman who was cryopreserved by her son. She had worked as a secretary from 1948 to 1968. Her son was born in 1967. Her husband (who had worked as a letter-carrier) died of cancer in 1989. None of the family ever smoked, however. Although the family was interested in cryonics, they believed that it was not affordable at that time. In 1990 the patient and her son moved into a smaller apartment where they lived together until her hospitalization and legal death.
When I have spoken to the patient's son, he would repeatedly emphasize to me what good people his family were. Although his mother never drove a car, neither he nor his father ever got a traffic or parking ticket. His mother would do shopping for older people in their apartment buildings, and babysitting for younger people without ever accepting payment.
According to her son, the patient was always in good health up until a year before her deanimation. In 2009 she was afflicted with Pseudomonas bacterial pneumonia, resulting in two months of hospitalization. During that time she was given a tracheotomy for drainage of mucus from her lungs. She was also given a gastric feeding tube so that she could be fed while on the respirator. The trach tube and feeding tube remained in place after the patient left the hospital.
On September 28, 2010 the patient was re-admitted to the hospital with a urinary tract infection. Early in December, she contracted Klebsiella pneumonia a form of pneumonia often developed in hospitals by urinary tract infection patients having a compromised immune system. The patient's son reported that his mother's mind was good up until her legal death. Two days before his mother deanimated, the son was informed that the mucus could no longer be removed from the lungs, and that his mother was terminal. After that time the patient could accurately respond by her actions to her son's verbal commands, although the respirator prevented her from speaking. Legal death occurred on December 26 at 3:40 A.M.
Neither the patient nor her son used computers or the internet, and they had only known about cryonics from television. They both agreed that cryonics was a good idea, but they were under the impression that cryonics arrangements are only made after legal death. Immediately after learning that his mother had been pronounced dead, the son contacted a lawyer to arrange for cryopreservation.
The lawyer contacted Alcor, but their prices were unaffordable. Arrangements were eventually made with the Cryonics Institute. CI has a policy of requiring at least two weeks on dry ice for all post-mortem sign-ups, so the patient was transferred from the hospital morgue to a funeral home for preservation on dry ice. Although the mother had been in the morgue for nearly three days, the son commented that her skin smelled as fresh as when she was alive when he kissed her.
The son does not have a FAX machine or internet access at home, and all the paperwork was handled through his lawyer. Snowstorms complicated his access to his lawyer, but eventually the paperwork was completed, the money was wired to CI s bank account, and authorization was given for transporting the patient on dry ice to the Cryonics Institute. If there were complications associated with shipping in dry ice, CI was not informed about them. This was quite a contrast to the problems encountered with shipping in dry ice with CI's 101st patient.
|Plenty of dry ice||Patient not straight|
|Patient wrapped in sleeping bag|
The patient was picked-up at the Detroit airport by CI's funeral director Jim Walsh, who arrived at the CI facility at about 3:30 P.M. on Monday, January 24, 2011. Styrofoam (rather than foamboard insulation) was between the air tray and the shipping box, but there was no styrofoam or foam board in the shipping box itself. Upon removing dry ice we discovered that the patient was curled-up on her side in a frozen position. Patients are normally straight on a board with their head down in the liquid nitrogen. The patient could still be placed head-down into a cryostat, but curled-up patients could present a packing problem in trying to get six patients into each cryostat. Fortunately, the previous two patients were quite slender, which would make for more room.
For patients who have just been vitrified, cooling from water-ice temperature is best done as quickly as possible initially, which means that it is best to keep the sleeping bag open while the patient is in the cooling box. But for patients received who are already at dry ice temperature, the insulating effect of the sleeping bag is not of much significance. The patient is already at a low temperature, and the cooling rate will only be very slightly slowed by being wrapped in a sleeping bag in the cooling box. Having the patient pre-wrapped means that there can be no delay with having to wrap the sleeping bag upon removal from the cooling box before placing the patient into liquid nitrogen. With the help of Mr. Walsh, Andy Zawacki removed the patient, placed her in a sleeping bag on a board, and moved her to the cooling box.
Preparing a patient for cooling always means having the boards on which they are to be secured, tied with ropes to secure the board. Holes are placed in both the bottom of the board and the top of the board, and ropes are knotted at these holes to avoid slippage of the ropes.
|Bottom secured by knots||Ropes at top for lowering patient|
|Full Cooling curve for the CI's 103rd patient|
The cooling box was pre-cooled to dry ice temperature, and then the patient was placed in CI's computer-controlled cooling box with the Omega controller at about 5 P.M. Monday afternoon. The temperature in the cooling box understandably spiked somewhat as the box was opened for insertion of the patient. The patient was cooled from dry ice temperature (about −80ºC) to liquid nitrogen temperature (about −196ºC) in a 22-hour linear ramp cooling. Cracking (a form of stress relief) is much less likely to occur for a patient who was not vitrified who is cooled this quickly because the frozen tissue already has micro-fissures.
|Patient placed in cooling box||Patient removed after cooling|
|Ropes for each patient tied together|
Cooling was finished at about 7:30 P.M. on Tuesday. The cooling caused a 19 centimeter drop in the liquid nitrogen level in CI's 11,000 liter bulk tank. At about 36 liters per centimeter, the patient's cooling consumed about 690 liters of liquid nitrogen.
Andy and his brother-in-law, David Fulcher, removed the patient from the cooling box, wheeled her to the front on a cart, raised her to the top of the cryostats in a forklift, and finally lowered her into a cryostat. Each patient has ropes tied to the board to which the patient is secured, and all of the ropes are tied together so that they can be easily fished-out of the liquid nitrogen when needed.
The 103rd CI patient become the sixth and final patient to occupy cryostat HSSV−6−11.