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  • It's a warm spring afternoon. Fourteen year  old Michael and his friends hang out at the  

  • Naviglio Grande Canal in Milan, Italian. The five  boys dive off a bridge into the murky cool water.  

  • They pop up laughing and splashing  each other. But something's wrong.  

  • Michael's friends realize that he's  missing--he never returned to the surface

  • They quickly dive back down and find MichaelHe's about 6 feet (1.8 meters) under water,  

  • caught in the grip of a strong currentWorse yet, his foot is stuck in a  

  • barricade of wooden poles used to guide boats. Michael's friends frantically try to free him.  

  • The commotion attracts the attention ofman jogging by. He strips down and dives  

  • in to help. But Michael's foot won't come loose. Someone calls the emergency services. Firefighters  

  • quickly arrive and send divers down to free  Michael. Finally, about 42 minutes after he  

  • first dived, rescuers return Michael to the  surface. He's limp, cold, and unconscious

  • They lay Michael on the bank and check for  signs of life. Surprisingly, they detect a faint  

  • heartbeat. The rescuers do chest compressions  and attempt to resuscitate him on the spot,  

  • but to no avail. Michael is rushed  to a local hospital and hospitalized  

  • in the cardiac surgery intensive care unit. He spends the next month in a coma attached  

  • to machines which breathe on his behalf and  keep his heart pumping. When Michael awakes,  

  • he's alert and able to recognize his parentsHe even asks about his favorite soccer team.  

  • Miraculously, he has no brain damage  and is able to make a complete recovery

  • How did someone survive underwater for nearly  an hour without air? Although Michael's 42  

  • minute ordeal is the longest we were able to  find, there have been a few other accounts of  

  • people stuck underwater for 15 or 20 minutes who  survived. Many were able to make a full recovery

  • Generally, brain damage begins after  about 1-2 minutes without oxygen.  

  • At 4-6 minutes the occurring brain  damage is severe and likely permanent.  

  • Around 10 minutes without oxygen death occurs. While doctors cannot fully explain Michael's  

  • miraculous survival, there are two main  theories of why he was able to survive.  

  • First, the bradycardic response which  is part of the mammalian diving reflex.  

  • This physiological response is the same  reflex that babies up to 6 months old have  

  • when their heads are submerged in water. They hold  their breath, their hearts slow down and blood is  

  • shifted away from extremities and less essential  organs to conserve oxygen for their brains and  

  • hearts. This reflex also protects babies from  getting milk in their lungs while nursing

  • Around 6 months in age, babies begin to  gradually lose the reflex. However adults  

  • often retain vestiges of it. If you dunk your face  in cold water, you'll gasp and hold your breath.  

  • Unfortunately, the bradycardic response is hard  to study in humans, especially adults, as it would  

  • involve recreating near-drowning experiences. The second theory as to how Michael could have  

  • survived so long underwater is the selective brain  cooling hypothesis. Studies have determined that  

  • the quicker the brain cools, the more likely  it is to survive. When immersed in water,  

  • the human body retains carbon dioxide asresult of not breathing, which causes blood  

  • vessels in the brain to dilate to allow increased  blood flow so the brain can receive more oxygen.  

  • This function is called hypercapnic  vasodilation. When submerged in cool water,  

  • the blood in the extremities begins to cool and as  hypercapnic vasodilation happens, the cool blood  

  • flows to the brain. As a result, the brain cools  faster. The colder the water, the more quickly  

  • cool blood flows to the brain and the longer  the brain may be sustained. The water Michael  

  • dived into was a chilly 59 degrees F (15 C). It's been noted that most of the survivors of near  

  • drownings with minimal effects tend to be young  and the water they've been submerged in is cold,  

  • suggesting that both theories play a role  with the brain cooling hypothesis being aided  

  • by the bradycardic response. Michael's near  drowning fits this profile. Also essential to  

  • Michael's survival was the emergency CPR  that was administered to him immediately  

  • after he had been pulled from the river. And now that you've reached the end of our video,  

  • why not keep the watch party going?! Ever wonder how you would react if  

  • you were trapped in a sinking car? Click  here for a life hack on how to survive:

  • Two travelers survive a terrifying plane crash  

  • only to be stranded in the Yukon. Can  they survive the winter wilderness?

It's a warm spring afternoon. Fourteen year  old Michael and his friends hang out at the  

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Surviving 42 Minutes Underwater

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    Summer posted on 2021/02/16
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