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April 17, 2011

For 73 minutes, Becky Halon was essentially dead

Now, less than a year later, North grad leading relatively normal life

TERRE HAUTE — After 72 minutes of relentless efforts to restore his wife’s heartbeat, Josh Halon saw the emergency room doctors give each other “the look.”

Josh knew what that meant. A registered nurse, Josh works in that same facility — Indiana University Health West Hospital in Avon — as director of cardiovascular services. His wife, Becky — a dark-haired, blue-eyed, petite picture of fitness — was also a nurse, in the surgical intensive care unit. They knew the ER well, as caregivers. Now, in a nightmarish dose of irony, Josh and Becky, both just 28 years old, found themselves on the receiving end.

Becky’s heart had stopped beating that day at 10:27 p.m., when she collapsed onto the bathroom floor of their home in Avon. It was now 11:39, and she lay lifeless on an emergency room bed. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation administered by Josh, paramedics and ER doctors had not jump-started her pulse. Neither had 15 — 15 — electrical shocks delivered to Becky’s heart.

That’s when Josh spotted “the look” on the doctors’ faces.

“It’s a look I’ve seen a ton of times in the hospital,” Josh explained, “where they kind of look at you, look at Becky, look at the monitor, look at each other, and start talking about, ‘She’s gone.’

“They started walking toward me, and I cried out, ‘No.’”

That “look” was clearly understandable. One hour and 12 minutes had passed, and Becky’s heart still was not pumping oxygen toward her brain. The doctors reminded Josh of the kind of life Becky likely faced, even if she did resuscitate. They suggested to Josh it might be time to cease the CPR.

“I said, ‘We’re not going to stop, even if we have to go all night and I have to get on the bed and do it myself,’” Josh recalled. “And it was in that moment — literally within 30 seconds — Becky [regained her heartbeat].”

The medical team began hypothermia protocol, cooling her body to 34 degrees Celsius to preserve brain tissues and slow her metabolism. Then, an ambulance sped off toward Indianapolis’ Methodist Hospital, carrying Becky — still alive, incredibly, after 73 minutes without a pulse — through a suddenly uncertain July night on the rocky road to a miracle.

Less than two hours earlier, the situation seemed unimaginable for the Halons.

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