Sledgehammer-wielding, watermelon-smashing comedian Gallagher (real name: Leo Anthony Gallagher, Jr.) suffered a heart attack yesterday just minutes before he was to perform in Texas yesterday.
The 65-year-old had to have two stents placed in his coronary arteries and according to his manager, Christine Scherrer, he was placed in a “medically induced coma” for the next 24 hours. This is to allow the entertainer to rest.
This is Gallagher’s second heart attack, his first being in 2011, when he collapsed onstage in Minnesota. Two weeks later Gallagher joked about his brush with death:
You can like God all you want to but I’m pissed at him … I had a heart attack while I was doing sledge-o-matic, which is gonna look great in the paper. But now I could die doing something stupid and my story won’t be as cool.
A medically induced coma is when a patient receives a controlled dose of an anesthetic to cause a temporary coma or a deep state of unconsciousness. The objective is to give enough medication to significantly slow brain wave activity. Drugs used include pentobarbital, thiopental, or the drug of Michael Jackson fame, propofol.
This type of coma is typically used to protect the brain from swelling (which is not typically seen after a heart attack). The brain swelling may be caused by injury (such as was the case for Gabby Giffords) or after brain surgery. Being in a coma reduces the blood flow through the brain as well as metabolic rate of brain tissue.
When in a medically induced coma, a patient’s vital signs must be constantly monitored by an anesthesiologist or other physician. Patients are usually intubated and ventilated (this means that a tube is placed in the windpipe and a machine breathes for you). This is done only in a critical care setting.
Deep sedation puts a patient in a semi-conscious state. It is commonly used in medical, surgical and neurological intensive care units and is used when patients undergo major operations.
The types of drugs that are used include anesthetics, benzodiazepines (which are often given to outpatients for anxiety) and opioids (pain medications).
Sedation helps a number of problems experienced by intensive care unit patients:
Plenty of times, the press oversimplifies or is just plain wrong when it comes to reporting on diseases and medical procedures. On the surface, it doesn’t make any sense to us that a heart attack victim would be treated for brain swelling. We suspect that Gallagher is just sedated but only his cardiologist and intensive care doctors would know for sure.