FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) –  During a routine wrestling practice, Deerfield Beach High School veteran wrestling coach Robert Burns had a massive heart attack.

Burns is alive thanks to a cutting edge medical procedure that lowers the body temperature.

It’s called ‘therapeutic hypothermia’ and the procedure is gaining traction in Broward County.

“I didn’t feel shortness of breath, I didn’t have chest pains, I just felt tired and said I needed to lay down,” said Burns.

“I work twenty hours a day and sleep four hours.  I ate anything and everything, I wanted to.  I never took into account the strong history of heart trouble in my family,” Burns remembered as he attended a rescue reunion at Broward Health Medical Center in Ft. Lauderdale on Monday.

One of his students, Brandon Smith who attended the reunion, says he found his coach not breathing on the gym floor at Deerfield Beach H.S.

“He was flat on the ground and turning purple,” said Smith. “I called 9-1-1.”

A school resource officer, BSO deputy Kevin Coleman rushed to help.

“He didn’t have a pulse.  All my training kicked in.  It was the first time in 20 years I did CPR,” said Coleman.

Once at the hospital, the emergency room staff started the therapeutic hypothermia process lowering his body temperature to between 92 and 94 degrees.

In this so-called frozen state, the damage to the heart muscle is minimized and blood flow to the brain is restored faster, limiting brain damage.

Burns, who was inducted into the Florida Wrestling Hall of Fame, was in a coma for ten days before he awoke in the hospital.

“I’m in awe.  I felt undeserving and overwhelmed so many people cared,” said Burns.

Brandon Smith says Burns has had a tremendous impact on so many people in the course of his 30 year teaching career.

“He’s done so much for so many people, it’s right someone should do something for him,” said Smith.

While Coach Burns was treated at the hospital, paramedics in Broward County are increasingly using the technique in the field.

Over 1000 paramedics have been trained in the procedure and in addition to the Broward Health hospitals, Holy Cross Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale,  Hollywood Memorial Regional and Cleveland Clinic in Weston are employing the procedure,  according to the Broward Sheriff Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services.

Broward Health Emergency Room Director Dr. Nabil El Sanadi says they have been tracking the successes over a period of five years.

“We’ve had as much as 39 percent of people neurologically intact, patients who have come back to life,” remarked Dr. El Sanadi.

You can count Coach Burns among the miracle stories.

He’s back at school doing what he loves and grateful he’s alive. He now watches what he eats and has completed a heart healthy protocol.


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