Evaluation of the Condition of Dr. James H. Bedford After 24 Years of Cryonic Suspension

From Cryonics, August 1991

by Mike Darwin


On 12 January, 1967, Dr. James H. Bedford became the first man to enter cryonic suspension. The story of his suspension and his care over the intervening years is covered elsewhere (1,2,3). The purpose of this article is to document Dr. Bedford’s condition as assessed by a brief external exam conducted on 25 May, 1991. At this time, Dr. Bedford was transferred from the horizontal sealed-in-the-field (Galiso, Inc.) cryogenic dewar — into which he had been welded in April of 1970 — to a state-of-the-art multipatient dewar.

removing Dr. Bedford from his cryocapsule

Removal From The Dewar

At approximately 09:30 on 25 May the foot end of the dewar containing the patient was elevated on concrete blocks, effectively submerging the patient’s head and torso. Beginning at about 10:00 AM, an abrasive cutting wheel was used to open the outer shell of the dewar, in the process breaking the vacuum (at 10:15). The outer head was then removed and the reflective barrier in the annulus between the inner and outer cans, consisting of multiple layers of dimpled aluminized mylar (Dimplar), was torn away. The inner head was then opened by an abrasive cutting wheel; this process was completed at 10:55.

The metal framework (bed) supporting the patient was then slid out of the unit. The patient, contained in a sleeping bag, was freed from the bed by cutting the nylon rope securing him to it. The patient was then transferred to an insulated, open-topped bath of liquid nitrogen for examination and evaluation.

In order to avoid any possibility of rewarming, the patient was evaluated while submerged in liquid nitrogen. The necessity of conducting the examination under these conditions limited its scope.


External visual examination discloses a well-developed, well nourished male who appears younger than his 73 years. The skin on the upper thorax and neck appears discolored and erythematous from the mandible to approximately two cm. above the areolas. The area of discoloration is fairly sharply demarcated on the thorax. The head is turned to the left and two puncture marks are noted approximately 1 cm apart over the anteriomedial aspect of the sternocleidomastoid muscle (approximately paralelling the internal carotid artery). These puncture marks are clot- free and present a fresh, “cored” appearance (suggesting a large-bore needle).

The skin on the left side of the neck is distended with what appears to be a fluid bolus(es) injected into the subcutaneous space. The position of the patient’s head precludes careful examination of the skin for puncture marks on the left side. There is frozen blood issuing from the mouth and nose. A smear of bright-red blood covers the skin around the nose and mouth in a pattern which appears to have been defined by a respirator mask. A larger quantity of darker red blood appears to have flowed out of the mouth during freezing to dry ice temperature, as it retains the folds and contours of the wrapping material which presumably covered the patient’s face during freezing.

The eyes are partially open and the corneas are chalk-white from ice. The nares are flattened out against the face, apparently as a result of being compressed by a slab of dry ice during initial freezing. The head is fringed with short-cropped, uniformly gray hair. Several small pieces of adherent aluminized mylar are present on the occiput.

The skin on the ventral thorax, abdomen, and limbs appears free of lesions and of normal color with the following exception: the right forearm and hand appear discolored and erythematous and appear to be the site of an intravenous line or subcutaneous injection of a hemolytic or irritating product. Most of the abdomen and thorax were covered with a thin, transparent, polyethylene sheet which was reflected back to facilitate examination. The chest is covered with sparse gray hair.

Close examination of the skin on the chest over the pectoral area disclosed sinuous features that appeared to be fractures. When these were probed under the liquid with a spinal needle it was noted that the skin was discontinuous over these areas. Subsequently, two small samples of skin were secured from the edges of one of these “fractures” with the gentle use of a wood chisel. The samples are currently being maintained in liquid nitrogen vapor for subsequent ultrastructural evaluation.

It is noted that in addition to the presence of unmelted water ice obscuring the genitals, there was another mass of unmelted water ice between the right arm and abdomen, just above the pelvis. A part of this ice mass was lifted free with a spinal needle and was observed to still retain some of the original small cube structure, attesting to the fact that it had not been warmed above 0°C.

The genitals are not visible due to the presence of unmelted water ice which anchors the plastic film.

The lower legs are crossed with the right foot over the left. There is aluminized mylar tape, of the kind used to secure superinsulation inside cryogenic dewars, wrapped around the toes of both feet. This tape was removed for examination; upon rewarming the tape retained its adhesive properties. It is presumed this tape was placed after cooling to -79°C for the purpose of anchoring thermocouple probes used to monitor temperature descent in the Cryo-Care storage unit (4).

Owing to the need to maintain the patient submerged in liquid nitrogen, and the logistic aspects attendant to his transfer from one dewar to another, the dorsal aspect of the body was not examined.


Overall this examination indicates that the patient has at least not been warmed above 0°C. Further, the presence of undenatured hemoglobin as evidenced by the presence of bright red blood, and the appearance of the water ice remaining on the patient, including what appeared to be loose (i.e., unrecrystalized) condensed “frost” from his cooling to -79°C suggests that rewarming was not to any high subzero temperature (i.e., it seems likely that his external temperature has remained at relatively low subzero temperatures throughout the storage interval).

Given the patient’s thermal history, which consists of nearly a decade and a half of cycling between liquid nitrogen vapor temperature at 80°K and liquid nitrogen temperature at 77°K, and at least two previous instances of removal from cryogenic storage and transient exposure to ambient temperature while being transferred from storage dewar to storage dewar, it is not surprising that he should show evidence of surface fracturing.

In 1983, during examination of another patient converted from whole body to neurosuspension who had been previously rewarmed to -79°C and then cooled to -196°C a second time, external fractures were also noted (5). However, one marked dissimilarity between the fractures present in that patient and those present in this one was that the skin in the former patient had separated from the underlying tissues in spots, sometimes presenting a “peeling paint” appearance. This phenomenon was not observed to have occurred with this patient.

It is assumed that the erythematous discoloration observed in the skin of the jaw, neck, upper thorax, and right arm were as a result of the hypodermic injection of highly concentrated cryoprotectant solution or perhaps pure dimethylsulfoxide as has been reported by Nelson (6) and Prehoda (7). It is the author’s opinion that the nature of the discoloration is due to hemolysis from this agent(s).

Bloody fluid issuing from the mouth and nose was a not completely unanticipated finding; photos made during the patient’s transfer from the Cryo-Care storage vessel to the Galiso unit in 1970 suggest this. The character of this fluid appears to be whole blood, ruling out purging of gastric contents (an early post-mortem sign of decomposition) as a cause. The source of this blood is presumed to be pulmonary hemorrhage secondary to prolonged cardiopulmonary resuscitation and friable lungs as a result of the extensive pulmonary metastases which were the proximate cause of deanimation. It is well-established that pulmonary edema is a common consequence of prolonged closed chest cardiopulmonary resuscitation clinically (8) as well as in prolonged cardiopulmonary support of cryonic suspension patients using closed chest cardiac compression (9).


1) Nelson, R.F. and Stanley, S., We Froze The First Man, Dell Publishing Co., Inc., New York, 1968.

2) Nelson, R.F., Personal communication, 23 September, 1982

3) Darwin, M.G., “Dear Dr. Bedford“, Cryonics, 12(7), 15-22 (1991).

4) Kraver, T., Personal communication, 3 June, 1991.

5) Federowicz, M., Hixon, H., and Leaf J., “Post-mortem examination of three cryonic suspension patients.” Cryonics, (September, 1984).

6) Nelson, R.F., Personal communication, 23 September, 1982.

7) Prehoda, R., Unpublished interview conducted in May, 1983.

8) Ornato, J.P., et al., “Measurement of ventilation during cardiopulmonary resuscitation.” Crit. Care Med., 11(2), 79-82 (1983).

9) Unpublished case histories of Alcor patients A-1103 and A-1036.