In 2005, in a series of experiments carried out at the Safar Center for Resuscitation Research at the University of Pittsburgh, they managed to return several dogs to the world of the living . The method is simple: all the blood is removed from their bodies and replaced with a cooled saline mixture to which oxygen and glucose have been added . The dogs rapidly go into cardiac arrest with no detectable brain activity: they are clinically dead . After 3 hours, the route traveled is reversed , removing the saline solution and reintroducing the blood. Following the style of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , an electric shock is enough to come back to life. Only a few dogs showed permanent damage. And although this seems fascinating to us, it is hardly anything compared to what happened on a farm in the United States shortly after the end of World War II.
On September 10, 1945, a 5 1/2-month-old Wyandotte rooster happily pecked on the floor of a Fruita, Colorado farmyard. The poor man had no idea of the fate that awaited him: he was going to be the main guest for the meal that Clara Olsen had planned. Her husband, Lloyd, was in charge of giving her “the passport”. Also, her mother-in-law was coming over for dinner and she loved the chicken neck. So he took the ax and figured out how to leave as much of the neck as possible . The blow fell and the rooster must have died. But it was not like that .
After the ax blow, Mike, because that is how the rooster has been known since then, returned to his usual chores… without a head : he pecked for food and trimmed his feathers. The next morning Olsen found Mike sleeping with his “head” under his wing. To keep it alive, the imaginative farmer decided to feed it with a syringe, with which he introduced water and grain directly into the esophagus. Mike was born with a star: Lloyd’s peculiar ax blow took almost all of his head except for a part of the brainstem and an ear. And not only that. By rushing so hard the blow had not cut the jugular vein and a clot had prevented the chicken from bleeding to death . Since most reflex actions are controlled by the brainstem (including heartbeat and breathing), Mike survived… a year and a half! In that time he gained two and a half kilos and earned his owners a not inconsiderable sum of money, more than 4,500 dollars a month at that time (today it would be just over 50,000) and was valued at 10,000, the largest amount ever insured for a rooster.
It was back on one of those trips where the curious paid 25 cents to see Miracle Mike when it all ended. Stopping at an Arizona desert motel to sleep, the rooster began to show signs of suffocation. The Olsens had forgotten their syringes and couldn’t clear his esophagus, and one day in March 1947, near Phoenix, Mike died… drowned.
But if the case of Miraculous Mike is that of a rooster that did not die, a few years earlier, in 1940, a Soviet documentary of almost 20 minutes directed by a certain DI Yashin was broadcast throughout Western Europe. Its title warns us that what we are going to see is absolutely amazing: Experiments in the reanimation of organisms.
Following the opening credits, announcing that the film is being distributed through the Soviet-American Medical Society, British scientist and Nobel laureate in Medicine JBS Haldane appears. In a completely aseptic tone, he states that he has personally seen the procedures carried out in the film at a biophysiology congress in Russia. He then introduces the real protagonist of the film: Sergei S. Bryukhonenko of the Research Institute of Experimental Therapy and Physiology in Voronezh, who “shares the credit for the development of human blood transfusion […] which has saved many lives over the years. war”.
Fade to black and we see the laboratory of Bryukhonenko , who was also the inventor of a primitive lung and heart (the autojektor ). The tape now shows the experiments, which are narrated by Haldane. They start with a dog’s heart connected to a series of tubes: using his invention, Bryukhonenko keeps its beat. It also shows a lung in a tray operated by bellows. Haldane continues narrating what happens with a totally aseptic tone. The autojektor then appears on screen, seen supplying blood to a dog’s head that responds to external stimuli.
As in any film worth its salt, the best is left for the end. Bryukhonenko’s team sedates a dog, draining all its blood until its heart stops beating, and leaving it for ten minutes, after which it is hooked up to the autojekctor . After a few minutes, the heart fibrillates and resumes its normal rhythm, as does breathing: the dead dog has risen. While one of the nurses is seen happily accompanied by the dog, Haldane tells that after 10 or 12 days the dog returned to its normal state, and ends by saying that it lived for years, grew up, got fat and had a family. In the final sequences we are shown three other dogs of which Haldane gives details of when he was revived and how long he was dead. Apparently, Bryukhonenko and his team had been resurrecting dogs since 1938.
The amazing footage was presented to a group of scientists in 1943 at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. What those who saw the tape thought, nothing is known for sure. One more mystery.
Did a Russian scientist really manage to bring a dog back to life at the beginning of World War II? Despite Haldane’s scientific prestige, few think he was. The safest thing – say the skeptics – is that we are dealing with mere Soviet propaganda: However, Bryukhonenko – a pioneer of open heart operations – had published the procedures used in scientific journals and books. In them he says that the heads only survived a few minutes and the resurrected dogs a few days, and not hours and years as the documentary claimed.