Medicine: Natural Life Preservers

"Diving reflex" and chill waters can prevent drowning deaths

Doctors and lifesaving manuals have long repeated that few drowning victims are likely to survive more than four to six minutes under water. Chances are that anyone who does will have irreparable brain damage from lack of oxygen. But consider the case of Brian Cunningham, 18, of Jackson, Mich. In March 1975 Cunningham's car plunged through the ice of a frozen pond; when rescuers hauled him out 38 minutes later, his body was blue. He had no pulse, his breathing had stopped, and his eyes were fixed in a dilated, glassy stare....

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!