Harlo Conklin's Story

A Chilling Experience Warmed Our Hearts

Emergency 9-1-1

Harlo Conklin complained of chest pain while he and his wife, Frances, drove to Pine Island from Indiana. A stop at a Gainesville hospital showed his vitals were good and he felt better, so he checked himself out of the hospital and returned to the road. Twenty-four hours later, Harlo went into cardiac arrest.

Though Harlo does not remember anything from that night or the nearly 20 days he spent hospitalized, his family vividly remembers the sequence of events and the ups and downs of his time at HealthPark Medical Center.

On the night of Harlo's heart attack, Frances had just settled into bed when she heard a loud crash. She rushed out of the bedroom and found Harlo had fallen backward into a glass cabinet. Frances knew she needed help so she immediately called her daughter, Dottie, who called 911 and rushed across the street to her parent's house.

Dottie—who was in the Navy—knew cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and immediately began the breaths and chest compressions.

Emergency Medical Services arrived within seven minutes. Unable to find a pulse, paramedics used a defibrillator three times before a pulse returned. En route to the hospital, EMS started the therapeutic hypothermia protocol—a method recommended by the American Heart Association to cool the body to preserve brain function.

Keeping it Cool

Once in the ED, Harlo was given an IV of ice-infused saline and was covered with ice packs to lower his body temperature. The therapeutic hypothermia protocol calls for a patient's body temperature to be lowered to between 90 and 93 degrees.

Harlo's body was cooled for 24 hours.

As Frances waited for news from the medical team, her children flew in from various parts of the country. "We were praying as hard as we have every prayed," Frances says. "I remember when they explained the hypothermia protocol to us; I knew they were doing everything they could to save him. But, when the neurologist came in and told me they didn't see any brain waves, it was devastating. I feared we would lose him, but this was still a shock to hear."

The next day, the neurologist came in and told Frances that there was activity in Harlo's brain. "Everyone said it was a miracle," Frances recalls. "He always has been a stubborn man. Julia [Schartung], Harlo's intensive care unit nurse, started calling him 'the stubborn miracle.'"

It Takes a Team

The Conklin family stayed by Harlo's side throughout his entire stay at HealthPark Medical Center—through the hypothermia protocol, quadruple bypass surgery and physical rehabilitation.

Harlo was discharged from the hospital on Jan. 25.

These days, Harlo impresses people with his story of survival. He even made special trips to shake the hands of the people who saved his life.

"Harlo and I have been married almost 57 years," Frances says. "I am eternally grateful for the care he received. From EMS, the emergency room doctors and nurses, the ICU staff, the cardiologists, the neurologist, everyone worked so hard to save his life. It was amazing."