Just days after being medically evacuated from North Korea, Otto Warmbier, 22, died.
North Korea officials claim Warmbier had botulism and that, combined with a sleeping pill, put him in a coma. But American doctors are calling BS on that.
So, what really caused his death?
Cincinnati experts said Warmbier was returned with severe brain damage and suffered ‘extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of his brain’ consistent with oxygen deprivation for a prolonged period.
Neurologists suggest a blood clot, an infection or pneumonia could be the reason behind Warmbier’s sudden death after his return, but most agree he was past the point of survival when he came home.
Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison, convicted of subversion after he confessed he had tried to steal a North Korean propaganda banner last January.
Pyongyang said Warmbier was released last week on ‘humanitarian grounds’, and refused to say his treatment during his imprisonment was a factor in his shockingly deteriorated state.
Although North Korea claim Warmbier had botulism, doctors did not find evidence of the rare form of food poisoning.
And it would definitely not cause Warmbier to go into a coma, even with a sleeping pill since the illness is treatable with an antitoxin.
Doctors are saying that his “neurological condition can be best described as a state of unresponsive wakefulness”. They added that the brain damage looked like it was caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain for a period of time, such as in cardiac arrest.
A cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating unexpectedly. A person will lose consciousness and will stop breathing normally.
Unless immediately treated by CPR or other life-saving techniques, the person will die in minutes.
Even still, survival statistics are bleak: approximately 50 percent of people who arrest are revived and only about 10 percent of these people leave the hospital.
Of those who do survive, around half suffer some level of brain impairment from the brain not getting enough oxygen.
If the brain does not receive oxygen, it results in damage. The longer it goes without, the more likely there will be permanent brain injury or death.
Warmbier’s state indicated that his brain had no conscious function; it could only keep him breathing and sleeping.
Dr. Lori Shutter, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told NBC News:
“If they are in that state from a lack of oxygen to the brain … and it has been more than three months … the chance of anyone having a meaningful recovery — I don’t know if any of us have ever seen it happen.”
Dr. Shutter said the death of Otto indicated that he was not in a good state when he was returned.
Since he had been in a coma for so long, his chance of survival was little to none, due to the brain damage.
Shutter said that Otto may have had pneumonia, which can happen when a person in a coma breathes saliva into the lungs and leads to an infection.
Dr. Daniel Laskowitz, a neurology professor at Duke University, added to the news outlet that other causes of death could be from an infection or blood clot.
He said: ‘If you are in a persistent vegetative state and you are just immobile for a prolonged period of time, you have a propensity to form a clot.’