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'Chill Therapy' helped save Empire State Senior Games athlete

Ray Kimball and his wife, Dorothy

Ray Kimball and his wife, Dorothy live in Chaumont, outside of Watertown. A retired highway worker, Kimball works as a substitute school teacher.

Ray Kimball in earlier race

This is from 2009 or 2010, Kimball says.

At 75, Ray Kimball is a veteran of the Empire State Senior Games, winning 48 medals from 1990 to 2010. He was competing in racewalking on June 9 in Cortland this year. Without warning, he collapsed.

“I don‘t think I made it halfway through the first lap,” Kimball recalls. Paramedics used a defibrillator to restart his heart and raced him to Upstate. He awoke in Syracuse 12 or 15 hours later. Then he underwent cardiac bypass surgery.

The skill and precision of Upstate‘s cardiac surgery team repaired Kimball‘s heart. A more rudimentary technique known as “chill therapy” is credited with preserving his brain. When the heart stops beating and then is revived, cytotoxins release into the bloodstream and can cause irreversible damage to the brain. Chilling the patient with strategically placed ice packs slows blood flow and the absorption of cytotoxins, improving chances for the patient to survive neurologically intact, explains Andre Poirier, RN.

Kimball was hospitalized 11 days. His bones continued healing for eight weeks. Today he‘s walking two miles per day. “I feel good,” he says. “It‘s just a matter of healing up.” He hopes to be back on his bicycle soon, if not to race, just to ride.