CHIEF OF CRITICAL CARE SERVICES AT UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL
UTILIZING THE SAME
USED ON HIS
PATIENTS, HE DECIDED
TO ‘FREEZE’ HIS BRAIN
BY WAY OF A
By Adam Bergen
With over two decades of experience and education, DR. JOSEPH VARON is an outstanding Houston-based doctor, one of the nation’s leading critical care medical professionals. As the Chief of Critical Care Services at University General Hospital here in town, his interaction with severely ill patients has allowed him to utilize unconventional and progressive treatments to help aid in their recovery. Dr. Varon has brought many people back from the brink of death or permanent injury through his contributions in the fields of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and therapeutic hypothermia.
A little under a year ago, it was a normal day – saving other’s lives – until he suddenly had an acute stroke.
Thinking it was an inner ear infection, he initially held off on going to the emergency room. But an MRI soon
revealed that part of his brain was already dying from a lack of blood, and he quickly took action. Utilizing
the same techniques he used on his patients, he decided to ‘freeze’ his brain by way of a cryo-helmet. Similar
to putting ice packs on an injury, the helmet uses super-cold gel-packs to cool the brain, reducing swelling
and slowing down its metabolism to help it heal. After a few weeks in the hospital and then intense physical
therapy, Dr. Varon made an incredible comeback in a short amount of time, at one point completing in three
weeks what could have taken 18 months. What has Dr. “Freeze,” as he is known, taken from all this? “Life
is unpredictable. One day you are doing great, and the next one, you cannot walk. Initially I thought I had
a middle ear problem with the dizziness and inability to stand. I was not expecting a stroke,” says the seasoned medical professional. And now that he has been in many of his patients’ shoes, it’s changed his view of how he treats them. “I thought I was going to be ‘nicer’ to my patients as I had now been in their shoes. That did not happen. On the contrary, I am more firm with them. If I was able to recover by working hard, they can work hard as well. I do not accept the ‘I can’t do it’ attitude anymore,” he states emphatically.
His biggest piece of advice to the general public? Make sure to get to the emergency room as soon as you
are experiencing stroke symptoms – like most medical emergencies, the sooner the better.