EXCERPT: 'Cheating Death' by Sanjay Gupta

Cheating Death

Dr. Sanjay Gupta goes into the world of medicine to uncover the latest techniques that doctors use to save lives. What he found were techniques that increased heart attack recovery rates by 20 percent, a new method for therapeutic hypothermia that prolongs the efficiency of treatments, and many other techniques that have led to medical miracles.

Read an excerpt of the book below, and head to the "GMA" Library for more good reads.

Prologue

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying. —Woody Allen

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: When the heart stops beating, it's not the end. In fact, you might say that your troubles have only just begun. As it turns out, life and death is not a black-and-white issue. There is a gray zone—a faint no-man's-land where you are neither truly dead nor actually alive. In order to control it, in order to cheat death, we have to fi rst better understand it.

VIDEO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta shares some of these exceptional survivor stories.
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The last thing Zeyad Barazanji remembers is the silence. 1 Thirty seconds earlier, he had been watching election returns on CNN, his head turned up from the treadmill, where he was huffi ng and puffi ng through his daily afternoon workout. His attention had drifted from the television to the sound of his own pounding feet, the whir of the machine, and his rasping breath as he strained to match his usual pace. That Tuesday, it felt like he was running uphill, and Barazanji cut it short, turning off the machine after only twenty minutes of jogging. A retired literature professor, Barazanji was in a bustling gym near his home in the Spuyten Duyvil section of the Bronx, surrounded by the banter of his neighbors and the clanking of weights. But then, nothing. Silence.

He doesn't remember what happened next, only what people told him later. One woman will never forget it. One minute she was working out, and the next there was a blur in the corner of her eye. The wiry, older man with the white undershirt and headband crumpled in a heap at the foot of the adjacent treadmill. At least a dozen people saw him go down. Two called 911 from their cell phones. An athletic trainer, the gym's manager, Juan Echevarria, grabbed the automatic defi brillator off the wall and rushed to Barazanji's side.

Elbowing the crowd aside, Echevarria kneeled and placed the defi brillator's electrodes on Barazanji's chest. Upon getting a signal from the device, he sent a shock into the chest of the unconscious man. Two successive bursts of electricity—200 joules apiece—shook the crumpled body. Each jolt ran through the beaded sweat on Barazanji's chest, through the breastbone, and into his still heart, shocking the muscle into a contraction. Another contraction followed, and then another. As the trainer held his breath, Barazanji's heart caught a beat of its own. The heartbeat was back. The line between life and death had shifted just enough.

The professor groaned and remained senseless, but his heart was once again sending weak pulses of blood through his sixty-three-year-old arteries. About four minutes later, a team of emergency medical technicians raced across the basketball court, stretcher in hand, to Barazanji's side. Two minutes later, a breathing tube was down his throat, he was on the stretcher, and the paramedics were sweeping toward the exit.

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