Boy survives 42 minutes trapped underwater
By T.K. Randall
June 7, 2015 · 18 comments
Humans are ill-equipped to last long underwater. Image Credit: National Park Service
What makes it possible for someone to survive for such a long time without being able to breathe ?
The 14-year-old, who had been diving in to a canal in Italy with his friends, got his foot caught on something underwater and found himself unable to return to the surface.
By the time the emergency services had arrived on the scene and freed him he had been under the water for a total of 42 minutes - far longer than any human should have been able to survive.
Amazingly however, despite spending a month on life support, the boy eventually recovered and is now doing fine. So how did he manage to survive for so long without oxygen ?
According to neurologist Dr. Zianka Fallil there are two possible processes that could account for the boy's survival and that of other people who have escaped similar circumstances.
The first is something known as the 'diving reflex', a physiological response to being submerged in water that sees the blood vessels constrict, the heart slow down and blood diverted away from the extremities so that it can go to the important organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys.
Another possible survival mechanism, the selective brain cooling hypothesis, enables the brain to survive for longer when it is immersed in cold water for an extended period of time.
"There are a few studies that have looked at near-drowning victims to see if age, the duration of submersion or the temperature of the water had anything to do with survival," said Dr. Fallil.
"And the one thing that they did find a correlation with was time of submersion."
In a study conducted in 2013 researchers determined that spending anything longer than 10 minutes submerged in water is very unlikely to yield a "good outcome" for the patient.
This conclusion makes it all the more remarkable that the boy in Italy managed to last 42 minutes.
Source: Live Science
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