An Interview With Larry Johnson

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An interview with Larry Johnson Director of Clinical Services Cryonics Magazine recently caught up with Alcor’s new Director of Clinical Services, Larry Johnson, in his office at the Scottsdale Central facility. Here is an interview with our newest employee, concerning his background and various facets of his new position. CM: Larry, tell us a little bit about yourself, for instance, where are you from originally, about your schooling and background? LJ: I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and
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  14 Cryonics An interview with Larry Johnson Director of Clinical Services Cryonics Magazine recently caught up with Alcor’s new Direc-tor of Clinical Services, Larry Johnson, in his office at theScottsdale Central facility. Here is an interview with our newestemployee, concerning his background and various facets of hisnew position.CM: Larry, tell us a little bit about yourself, for instance, whereare you from srcinally, about your schooling and background?LJ: I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was born andraised in that area. Once I was through high school, I becameinterested in emergency medicine, primarily the paramedic field,which interested me quite a bit. I actually had some buddies whowere paramedics on ambulances, and had ridden out with themas I was going through high school, and as soon as I graduated,I went to the University of New Mexico School of Medicine—they had formed the EMS Academy for the Education of Emer-gency Medical Technicians and Paramedics, so I went there—this was back in the late 70s. I have been a paramedic for 25years as of this April. My background is pretty much that—it’semergency medicine. I started out as an EMT, worked my wayup to paramedic, and have held various positions, everythingfrom a street paramedic to a field training officer to a supervisorto a director of clinical services education. I was a program di-rector for an air medical helicopter service in Dallas. It was oneof the first in the nation to employ an all-paramedic crew ontheir aircraft. I basically developed and implemented that pro-gram myself along with the help of a couple buddies of mine,and ran that program successfully, which is still successful to-day.CM: Specifically, what were you doing immediately prior tocoming here to work at Alcor several weeks ago?LJ: I was actively working as a field paramedic in Las Vegas,Nevada, providing emergency care for the 911 system up there.CM: And how long had you been doing that?LJ: I was with Las Vegas right at a year. As I stated before, I amsrcinally from the Southwest, my mother is in Las Vegas, mydad actually lives here in Phoenix, and I had moved from Texasto be a little bit closer to family, and that is what kind of drew meto the Las Vegas/Phoenix area.CM: I know in a conversation we had several weeks ago, youwere telling us about some of your experiences with the Wacoincident. Could you relate to our readers some of what that wasall about?LJ: Waco was the fiasco several years ago. I was working as aflight paramedic for Care Flight Dallas, which is the second larg-est air medical service in the country, and we had gotten a callone morning to fly out to Waco, that there was some sort of outbreak or something against the ATF out there. As we wereloaded into the helicopter, we were briefed with more informa-tion as to what had actually gone on and what had happened outthere, and it was quite an experience—it was extremely stress-ful. I srcinally flew out the first set of ATF officers who wereinitially shot, and then I was called back several weeks later,actually when the compound had caught fire, and I was there tofly those injured individuals out.CM: Thanks. I’m not sure anything we have here at Alcor isgoing to be quite that exciting, but can you tell us what it wasthat attracted you to answering the advertisement that Alcor hadplaced in a variety of publications? You saw the ad, of course,and responded, but what was going on in your mind? What didyou think about when you saw the ad, and had you heard of usbefore?LJ: I actually did hear of Alcor probably a couple years before.It was actually perfect timing. I was really at a period in my lifehere several months ago where I was really tired of the same oldthing. As I stated earlier, I’ve been a paramedic for 25 years, soI got to the point where I wasn’t feeling too challenged, I waspretty bored with my job, and I have found that a buddy of minewas aware of how I was feeling but he also knew I was inter-ested in all types of sciences and that I wanted to get into some-thing kind of new and he knew I was interested in research. Hewas actually the individual who first saw the ad that Alcor wasrunning, and he had gotten on the phone to tell me about it. I  1st Qtr. 2003 15 went ahead and got online, checked it out, and contacted CharlesPlatt.CM: I know you are married and your wife’s name is Beverly.What were her thoughts about the possibility of the two of youcoming down here, moving to Scottsdale, and you taking thisposition with Alcor?LJ: She’s always been real supportive of what I want to do inregard to my career. She could see that I was really getting tiredof what I was doing in the field as a paramedic, and I am one of those individuals who can become bored easily if I am not chal-lenged and it shows in my actions. She knew I was at a pointwhere I needed something new, and I had talked about it for solong that I didn’t feel that challenge. So, I guess another thingshe could see is the paramedic game is really for young indi-viduals. It’s a young person’s career. I’d get home at the end of a 12-hour shift after running 14 or 15 911 calls, and I’d look likeI’d been beaten to death. I’d come right home, get in bed, andsleep on a heating pad all night. So, I was getting a little old forthat field. I’m very thankful for the experience I’ve had, I justcan’t think of any other way I could have gained the clinicalexperience and the clinical knowledge I have if it would not havebeen for that career field, and I’m very grateful for that. Whenthis came up, she knows of my interest in research and new sci-ences, and so she was completely supportive. She’s not a strangerto the Phoenix area—she lived in Mesa several years ago.CM: I know you had just come down here, and very briefly afteryou started, you were on several Standbys and involved in morethan one suspension. What was it like literally having no time toreceive any on-the-job training?LJ: It seems like that’s the best way I really learn. I can sit downand listen to lectures and read books, but it really doesn’t haveany kind of impact on me until I actually get out there and do it,so I was really anxious to get out there and do what I’ve heardabout and what I’ve read about, so it was a very good experiencefor me, and I look forward to more of these types of experiences.CM: Larry, I know you have suggested and chosen (with ouragreement) the title of Director of Clinical Services. What madeyou choose this particular title, and what does it mean? Whatshould Alcor members know that this title means?LJ: Director of Clinical Services is a title that is very well knownin the medical profession, and I think with that title I can helpbuild some bridges and relationships with what we’re doing inthis particular field versus what is going on in the medical busi-ness. I think it’s a title that other medical professionals (i.e. nurses,physicians, those types) can relate to. So I truly believe that willhelp bridge that gap.CM: Well it certainly is no longer a job requirement, but myunderstanding is you are planning on joining Alcor as a mem-ber, and what’s driving you to do that? Was that almost from theget-go, or has anything that you have seen or done here sinceyou’ve started working here augmented your desire to become amember?LJ: Well it’s actually something that’s kind of been in the back of my mind for some time even before I came to work for Alcor.I’ve always been interested, and I’ve actually done a lot of read-ing on the subject of cryonics and of nanotechnology, so I wassomewhat knowledgeable of that when I walked in the door here.Actually, I just turned in today my membership application toJennifer. I regret that I didn’t get it turned in earlier, but as youstated earlier, as busy as we got a few weeks ago, I never reallyhad time. However, my application is in, and I’m very excitedabout that, and again my wife is very supportive of my decision.CM: And to clarify for our readers, today as Larry mentioned isThursday, March 20, 2003. What have been maybe one or twohighlights of your brief tenure here with us? What has maybeeven pleasantly surprised you about your work since you’ve joined us?LJ: I really enjoy how close-knit everyone is. It’s kind of like asmall family. I had the opportunity to meet the folks out in south-ern California—a bunch of really nice individuals out there. Ialso got to meet several people from around the world at therecent training we had up at Creekside Lodge. It was veryfriendly, and seems to be a very close-knit family.CM: And, in all fairness to our readers and to try to remain some-what objective in this interview, what perhaps has disappointedyou more than anything else since you’ve been with us asidefrom having your motorcycle stolen?LJ: I really can’t think of anything disappointing as far as mywork is concerned right now, as far as Alcor. So far I’ve beenvery pleased with what I’ve seen and with what has been goingon. And as you stated, with the exception of having my Harley-Davidson stolen here in north Scottsdale, I feel like everythingelse has been okay.CM: In this issue of  Cryonics, which features our building up of the infrastructure and the professionalization of the network,obviously you are an important part of those programs. What doyou see for yourself besides the activities on Standby operationsdoing for the technical aspects in the field operations or evenhere at Alcor Central? I know you had mentioned somethingabout a professional paramedic network that you were thinkingabout developing. Can you share some of that and any otherthoughts with us on this matter?LJ: Actually some of my goals for the next several months in-clude trying to help professionalize this group. In the past I have  16 Cryonics been involved in the developing of some professional organiza-tions, and have a little bit of background on that. I’m looking atthe possibility and have already started some work in my sparetime when I have it, developing a national registry—actually aninternational registry—for cryonics specialists. The acronym forthis is IROCS. I have already written the bylaws, code of ethics,and mission statement. This will obviously take more individu-als than myself to make these kinds of decisions, but I have startedto lay the groundwork to try to professionalize this business.CM: Well Larry, I think we’ve come to pretty much the end of the interview. Can you think of any questions I might have posed l but didn’t or anything else you would like to share with our read-ership before we sign off today?LJ: Just that I’m looking forward with everybody out there inthis business. I’ve got a lot of ideas and a lot of plans that I’msure everyone will be very pleased with.CM: Thanks, Larry, for submitting yourself for this interview,and we’ll look forward to hopefully a long and healthy relation-ship and a productive one between you and the foundation! Cryonics Gets a Possible Boost from Cardiac Resuscitation Research © James Clement, March 21, 2003After learning that most victims of cardiac arrest (heartstoppage) die not from the injury to the heart, but due to braindamage, researchers at the Argonne National Laboratory (aU.S. Department of Energy laboratory operated by the Uni-versity of Chicago), working with the Emergency Resuscita-tion Research Center (ERRC), also at the University of Chi-cago, decided to look at ways to protect brain cells during thetrauma. One answer they came up with was ice. Resuscitationwithout brain injury is difficult after four minutes of cardiacarrest at normal temperatures. However, researchers also knowthat when cells are cooled, their metabolism and their chemi-cal processes slow dramatically. For example, a skater whofalls into an icy pond can be resuscitated even after beingsubmerged for a significant amount of time.Unfortunately, applying ice to the outside of the bodyworks too slowly, so the team proposed that an ice slurry beinjected into the lungs to start cooling down the blood faster.According to the researchers, an ice slurry would effectivelycool critical organs of the body rapidly with just a small amountof coolant. This ice slurry would be inserted into the lungs,and EMS personnel would perform chest compressions to cir-culate the cooled blood, allowing it to reach the brain andpreserve brain cells.In research funded by a $4 million grant from the Na-tional Institutes of Health, Argonne researchers used animalstudies to discover that a patented ice slurry quickly cools thebrain by 2 to 5 degrees Celsius. This process appears to keepthe brain cool for about an hour, which would give medicsand doctors more time to revive normal blood flow and brainactivity. The extra time this procedure buys could reduce thebrain damage to little or none.According to Roger Poeppel, director of Argonne’s En-ergy Technology Division, “Sudden cardiac arrests strike about1,000 people a day, and the survival rate is at best 2 to 4percent. If we can improve survival rate by just 1 percent, wewill save the lives of 10 people every day.”In cryonics, a person who is already “legally” dead has amixture of cryoprotectants (antifreeze) pumped through theirorgans, replacing up to 60 percent of the water inside thecells. The body is then cooled below –130 degrees Celsius,and the tissue chemistry is thereby slowed to a stop. In con-ventional medical research, vitrification has been successfullyapplied to embryos, ova, pancreatic islets, skin, and vasculargrafts. Work continues to make vitrification reversible inlarger systems. Once medical technology advances suffi-ciently, it is hoped that the cryopreserved person will be un-frozen and then resusicitated without significant brain dam-age. During the reanimation process, the “cause” of deathwould be repaired as well.Although the ice slurry being developed by the Argonneand ERRC researchers does not freeze the brain, the knowl-edge being gained by them could help cyronicists understandbetter how hypothermia preserves brain cells and how theresuscitation process should proceed to minimize damage.ERRC is also working on a method for clinicians to monitorfree radicals in humans after ischemia (lack of blood supply).Lacking such a monitor, current therapies with antioxidantshave no way to determine if the therapy has achieved its goal.A multidisciplinary team consisting of bioengineers fromArgonne National Laboratory, doctors, and scientists are nowdeveloping a free radical detector device for use by paramed-ics and doctors that will overcome this obstacle to antioxi-dant treatments. Further work is needed to refine prototypebiosensors for real-time measurements of oxidant stress inpeople. l
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