Dear Dr. Bedford – An Open Letter to the First Frozen Man
Cryonics, July 1991
by Mike Darwin
“I cannot describe the feeling of elation I had when I peeled back the sleeping bag that enclosed you and saw that you appeared intact and well cared for.”
- Evaluation of the Condition of Dr. James Bedford After 24 Years of Cryonic Suspension
- The First Suspension
- Dr. Bedford Gets a New Suit
Twenty-four years ago a twelve-year-old boy with waxed-down hair and a clip-on tie stood in a long line of other youngsters at Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse. His father, dressed in a long, navy-blue overcoat, stood by his side. It was sometime in March or April and the first signs of Spring were in the air, although it was still a bit of a chilly day. Spring was welcome and full of promise. It had been a bitterly cold winter, and the memory of the boy’s first Science Fair Presentation one frigid night late in February was vividly in his mind. There too his father had helped him, bringing his project into the basement auditorium of the school. The memory of that night came back him: of his father unloading the folding pegboard display, white clouds of breath billowing from man and boy. . . .
Despite the morning chill in the air the day was bright and the old steel skeleton of the stadium was alive with a thousand voices full of hushed enthusiasm and fidgety anticipation. The boy was quiet, hardly exchanging a word with his father. He was lost in thought, full of excitement and nervous fear — and pride.
The boy had won first place at the cadet level in the local Science Fair and was now at the regional level competing against youngsters from all over the State of Indiana. He was very young compared to most of the other students who had progressed this far in the competition, and he was filled with a mixture of emotions: elation, pride and fear. His mouth was more than a little dry and his knees more than a little shaky as he began setting up his exhibit and rehearsing in his mind what he would say to the judges who would soon be making the rounds.
His project was entitled “Suspended Animation in Plants and Animals.” The boy was an imaginative child with a rich (and some would say over-active) fantasy life. He had great hopes that he would win the competition and that this science fair was the beginning of a wonderful adventure for him. His teachers were very proud of him and offered much encouragement. Just as importantly they told him that he was special, different, and that his project was very original. Perhaps doors would open that would let him achieve what he most wanted and was very sure was his destiny: to become an astronaut and live and work in space. One thing he was secretly sure of: this science fair was going to change his life.
In having this vision of his future the boy was not alone. The American space program was running full-tilt towards the moon, and every popular science book, newspaper supplement, and NASA handout predicted with complete confidence that by the time the boy was a young man, space, the last frontier, would be wide open. The boy was very confident he would be raising his family on one of the first lunar colonies.
It was 1967. Lyndon Johnson was President. The Beatles were very much the rage. The Vietnam war was in full swing and the college campuses were beginning to become places of antiwar foment. Ronald Reagan had just taken office for his first term as Governor of California. The “hot” car was the Ford Mustang. The political and social focus of the country was on the “Great Society” — the notion that poverty and social ills could be overcome by government programs as successfully as the pull of gravity was being overcome by the government space program. The United States was at the cross-roads of a heady period of power and self-confidence and the beginning of another period, marked as much by uncertainty, pessimism, conflict, doubt, and shame as the previous period had been by optimism, vitality, enthusiasm and, can-do spirit.
“Made in Japan” was still largely a joke; an unknown company called Toyota had made a grossly unsuccessful attempt to introduce an automobile into the U.S. market. Another Japanese company named Sony introduced an amazingly small portable television with a six-inch screen and, of all things, a ten or fifteen pound re-chargeable battery pack to run it with! The TV was a great success.
During the course of the Science Fair weekend, the boy explained the details of his project many times. He was excited by the many favorable comments he received and by the general hubbub and excitement around him. There were probably well over a thousand competitors on various levels; science, in 1967, was very “in.”
Sometime during the course of that weekend a woman, perhaps one of the judges, made a remark to the boy that was both a question and a statement of fact: “Did you know they’ve frozen a man in California who died of cancer so that he can be revived when they find a cure?”
The boy hardly knew what to say. Was it true? It seemed so outrageous! How could they hope to do such a thing when he could not freeze a turtle to more than a few degrees below zero centigrade for more than half and hour without killing it? Had someone solved the suspended animation problem? Was the boy’s project a waste of time and, much more important, was there now a way for astronauts to get to the stars?
The lady returned the next day with the newspaper article from the Indianapolis Star. The article chronicled how one James H. Bedford, a psychology professor from Glendale, California had been frozen to await resurrection when medicine found a cure for cancer and, incidentally, for the freezing damage inflicted on him by unperfected preservation techniques.
The boy felt a rush of excitement — and a rush of contempt and skepticism. He was intrigued, but the whole thing seemed so fantastic. And the boy knew about freezing damage; he had seen enough of it in fifty cent, red-eared slider turtles, purchased at the dimestore, who were frozen too long to recover. . . .
That boy, needless to say, was me. That science fair did change my life, but not in the way I expected. My registration was somehow lost and as a consequence my project, while reviewed by all the judges, was never formally JUDGED. I did not win. But I did not know why until later, when several of the judges who were impressed with my project unraveled the whole mess and tried to set things right. I was given an honorable mention and an apology by the Regional Science Fair Committee. It was a bitter disappointment. I do not know if I would have won, and I will probably never know.
But there was a consolation prize: The newspaper clipping the woman had handed me. My life was about to change, and in a way I could hardly have been prepared, even in my wildest imaginings, to comprehend.
While I was preparing for my Science Fair project, busily freezing turtles, insects, and plants, and experimenting with trying to protect them from freezing injury with glycerol, you were busy dying. The passage of 24 years and my long involvement in both cryonics and medicine has given me a very good idea of what that must have been like for you. Your cancer was completely untreatable then (and is still largely so now) and while I have never seen your medical records, I have a pretty good idea of what your clinical course was like. The shortness of breath near the end as the cancer (metastasized from your kidney) consumed the air space in your lungs must have brought you to the edge of panic, and perhaps beyond.
I know very little about you personally. I know less about you than most of the patients who entered cryonic suspension after you. I have met your son, Norman, on a number of occasions, but actually know his second wife Cecelia, whom you never met, much better than I know him. What I know of you as a man has been gleaned from bits and pieces of conversations and overheard remarks. All of it has been good. I know that you were a reflective man who pondered your purpose here in life and the meaning of death. I have been told that you were a gentle, quiet, decent, and responsible man. Your career and the recollections of several of your former students whom I have encountered testifies to the fact that you had a fine intellect and a genuine love of teaching.
Recently, I have learned a little bit more about you. I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that you authored at least six books on vocational training and career counseling. And that — despite your quiet demeanor — you had a real sense of adventure, setting for an African safari in 1958, a wilderness tour of the Amazon rain forests, and extensive travels in Greece, Turkey, Spain, England, Scotland, Germany, and Switzerland. You were also one of the first to drive the Alcan Highway to the Canadian Northwest and Alaska. Perhaps that explains why you chose to take an even more fantastic and uncertain journey, the one upon which you are now embarked.
You, of course, do not know me at all. It is more than a little strange that two people who know almost nothing of each other, could find their lives so entwined and their prospects for survival so heavily dependent upon the actions of each other.
Your courage and your decision to undertake cryonic suspension, to be the FIRST “cryonaut,” in the jargon of the times, had a profound effect on my life. Over the course of 1967 I gradually became more interested in cryonics, and sometime in 1968 I sent away to the Cryonics Society of New York for literature and later visited what was left of Ed Hope’s Cryo-Care facility in Phoenix, where you briefly resided following your suspension on 12 January, 1967. Thereafter, I quickly became deeply involved in cryonics. But that is not the purpose of this letter. This is hardly the place for the complete narrative of my life story; besides, I doubt it would interest you very much.
I’m writing to tell you about how you were suspended and how you came into Alcor’s care. My narrative will necessarily be brief and largely confined to issues and events which are not documented elsewhere. It is not my intention to repeat or summarize what has been covered in detail before or is part of the historical record (i.e., the media). Regrettably, my own struggle to survive leaves me neither the time nor the inclination to undertake such a daunting task. I could have accomplished this with dry technical prose: “The patient, a 73 year old Caucasian male. . . .” And in fact, a technical account of your condition at this time is in your file. However, communicating the technical facts about what has happened would not tell the story I want to tell. Because, you see, it was not just the dry technical facts which caused events to unfold as they did, and in any event those could be just as easily gleaned from the pages of logbooks and your case notes. Rather, it is the human story I want to tell because that is the real story of how you came to be at Alcor and perhaps a big part of why you may have survived to read these words.
Since it is unclear how much of your short-term memory will survive cryonic suspension (it is no longer called cryogenic interment) I will begin this narrative at the beginning . . . .
At 1:15 P.M. on 12 January, 1967 you experienced cardiorespiratory arrest in a nursing home operated by a Seventh Day Adventist couple, Raymond and Mildred Vest. You had apparently known the Vests for over 16 years (they rented the property they operated their nursing home in from you and your wife). The immediate cause of your legal death was inadequate oxygenation due to your kidney cancer, which had metastasized to your lungs. Robert F. Nelson (a.k.a. Robert Buccelli), President of the Cryonics Society of California, was nowhere to be found. Mr. Vest and your physician, Dr. B. Renault Able, began CPR, packed you in ice on the hospital bed in which you had deanimated, and began a frantic search for Nelson. An hour or so later he was located.
Nelson simulating an injection into Dr. Bedford on the afternoon of 12 January, 1967.
The Cryonics Society of California “suspension team” was woefully unprepared. From testimony taken from Nelson and Robert Prehoda it appears that your “perfusion,” so glowingly detailed to the news media, consisted of multiple injections with either pure DMSO or a DMSO-containing solution of a composition which was unknown to Nelson. (Prehoda recalls that pure DMSO from Matheson Scientific was employed). Attempts were made to introduce the cryoprotectant into your carotid arteries bilaterally and to circulate it by performing manual chest compressions coupled with bag-valve respirator ventilations. According to Nelson, within approximately two hours of your deanimation you were transferred to a foam-insulated box, still wrapped in the bed sheet on which you deanimated (with some crushed water ice still on you) and covered over with one-inch-thick slabs of dry ice.
Over the next few days you were shuttled from place to place as a wild series of events began to unfold. Most of this story is chronicled (reportedly, and surprisingly, with some degree of accuracy) in Nelson’s book about your suspension, We Froze the First Man, a copy of which accompanies this letter in your Alcor file.
It may shock you, but it is something of an understatement to describe Nelson as a pathological liar and an outright fraud. It is a testimony to the good judgment and determination of your wife and son that you were removed from his clutches only six days after your suspension and shipped to Cryo-Care Equipment Corporation in Phoenix, Arizona. Had this not happened, you would certainly have perished at Chatsworth with the nine patients whom Nelson allowed to thaw out and decompose. Two days after your suspension, the following press release (written by Robert Ettinger and read by Nelson) was given to the media:
“The first reported freezing of a human at death, under controlled conditions, occurred Thursday, January 12, 1967, in Los Angeles. A patient was frozen immediately after his death from cancer in the hope of eventual revival and rejuvenation by future techniques. The next of kin concurred in the patient’s wishes.
“Special freezing procedures were applied by Dr. B. Renault Able, a local physician, Dr. Dante Brunol, Scientific Advisor to the Cryonics Society of California, Robert Prehoda, author and scientist, and Robert Nelson, President of the Cryonics Society of California, 1019 Gayley Avenue, West Los Angeles. In consultation were Robert C.W. Ettinger, author of The Prospect of Immortality, the book which proposed the current L.T.A. (Low Temperature Anabiosis) program, Curtis Henderson, attorney and President of the Cryonics Society of New York, 306 Washington Avenue, Brooklyn, and other members of the Cryonics Societies, coordinated by Mr. Nelson.
“When clinical death occurred, Dr. Able was present and at once began artificial respiration and external heart massage, to keep the brain alive while cooling the patient with ice. Heparin was injected to prevent coagulation of the blood.
“Later, the team of Dr. Brunol, Robert Prehoda and Robert Nelson, perfused the body with a protective solution of DMSO (Dimethylsulfoxide) using a Westinghouse Iron Heart sent by the Cryonics Society of Michigan.
“The patient is now frozen with dry ice, -79°C., and will soon be stored in liquid nitrogen, -196°C., when a cryocapsule is supplied by Cryo-Care Equipment Corporation of Phoenix, Arizona. He will be kept frozen indefinitely until such time as medical science may be able to cure cancer, any freezing damage that may have occurred, and perhaps old age as well.
“The patient’s family has requested complete privacy; consequently no personal questions will be answered. All of those involved in the effort hope that this will lead to a massive biomedical effort on research into the prolongation of life.”
A year later, Nelson, in conjunction with writer Sandra Stanley, published a book detailing your suspension and the events surrounding it (the aforementioned We Froze The First Man). This book, along with Ettinger’s The Prospect of Immortality, had a very powerful effect on me. I became convinced not only that cryonics was a workable idea, but that it should be my life’s work as well. Your suspension, as recounted in Nelson’s and Stanley’s book, was a mixture of revolutionary ideals and high drama, and I wanted to be a part of it.
By 1973 my perception had changed a great deal. I had discovered that the situation with cryonics was anything but how Nelson had depicted it. By this time I had heard rumors that your suspension was not the elaborate procedure employing blood washout and cryoprotective perfusion which Nelson described in his book and in subsequent media interviews. And by this time as well our paths had crossed for the first time.
While at Cryo-Care, the first “cryocapsule” you were in, a prototype unit with a bolt-on inner head, was performing badly (see your Alcor file for additional details on this unit). A decision was made to transfer you to a new unit, a Cryo-Care CC-101 with a welded inner head. This transfer was done sometime early in 1967.
Cryo-Care Equipment Corporation on Indian School Road in Phoenix, AZ. Dr. Bedford’s “home” from 1967 to 1969.
Dr. Bedford’s second Cryocapsule shortly after it was painted circa March, 1968.
Your stay at Cryo-Care was brief, and within approximately two years of your arrival there you were moved again, this time back to Southern California to the facilities of a small cryogenics and test equipment manufacturing and repair company by the name of Galiso, Inc. The Cryo-Care unit you were in was performing very badly. It had in fact developed a leak in the inner vessel and it was determined by all involved that it was time to transfer you to a newer, more reliable unit. The Cryo-Care unit was in such poor shape that the only way to tell if there was liquid nitrogen in it was to check the vent tube for frost (the thermocouples had all stopped working)! Galiso undertook to build such a unit, completing it late in March or early in April of 1970. During April of 1970 you were transferred from the Cryo-Care dewar to the Galiso unit.
During the interval in which you were cut-out of and removed from the Cryo-Care unit and welded into the new Galiso unit, you were not refrigerated by submersion in liquid nitrogen; you were wrapped in a Dacron polyester sleeping bag and sprayed with liquid nitrogen. A temperature probe placed on your chest during the transfer recorded the maximum temperature reached as 130°K (-143°C).
Cecilia Bedford (Dr. Bedford’s daughter-in-law) with the Cryo-Care unit shortly before his transfer to the Galiso unit at Galiso, Inc., in April of 1970.
Galiso technician Mogens Friedlow opens the innter cylinder of the Cryo-Care dewar with an abrasive cutting wheel in preparation for moving Dr. Bedford into the Galiso dewar. This was done in April, 1970.
A galvanized metal heat shield used to protect Dr. Bedford’s feet during the welding closure for the Cryo-Care dewar being removed.
Wrapped in a new Dacron polyester sleeping bag and affixed to the stainless steel stretcher of the Galiso unit with nylon rope, Dr. Bedford is prepared for placement in the new dewar.
Having been inserted in the Galiso dewar, technicians cover his feet with heat shielding and bolt the stretcher into place on the side rails.
Mogens Friedlow (L) looks on as Galiso founder and the dewar’s designer, Carl Grenche (center), supports the inner head of the dewar with a piece of lumber as an unidentified technician welds the unit closed.
In the summer of 1973 I set out to California from Indianapolis by train (the Superchief) in the company of a young graduate student in cryobiology named Greg Fahy. A major purpose of that trip was to investigate Nelson and determine if he really was the fraud that I, and others in the cryonics community at that time, were rapidly becoming convinced he was. Another purpose of that trip was to verify that you were still safely in cryogenic storage at Galiso.
Greg Fahy, my guide in this, could not have been better chosen, since it was he who located you at Galiso after your “disappearance” from Cryo-Care circa 1969 and put to rest the rumors circulating that you had been quietly thawed and buried. Greg was president of the Cryonics Youth Association (CYA) and had stumbled across your location quite by accident sometime in 1971. This happened when he took the CYA newsletter, “Cryonics Vistas,” in for printing and one of the counter girls at the shop on Jamboree Boulevard in Irvine remarked that she knew about a frozen body being kept at a company called Galiso. Apparently a friend of hers who worked there had told her about your presence there. A call to Directory Assistance resulted in Greg locating Galiso and ultimately going out to visit you. The story of your continued care appeared initially in Cryonics Vistas and then in the newsletter of the Cryonics Society of New York, “Immortality.” I can well remember reading those articles and feeling very reassured that “the first man was still frozen!”
Dr. Bedford’s dewar at Galiso as photographed by Greg Fahy, circa 1971.
Sometime in the June of 1973 I walked into the cavernous industrial bay of Galiso, Inc., in Anaheim, California. The unit containing you sat out on the shop floor amid the clutter of uncompleted dewars and test equipment in various stages of manufacture, covered with a heavy layer of ubiquitous Southern California dust. This was our first “meeting.” It made a great impression on me. Above all, I was impressed that you were still apparently frozen after all this time and despite the vigorous legal challenges from your relatives. The archives of the Los Angeles County Courthouse contain the complete (and sordid) story of the greed that was unleashed by your suspension and your $100,000 bequest for cryobiological research; a bequest which was used up nearly two and half times over just to defend and maintain your suspension up to that time!
First encounter: The author, Mike Darwin, and Linda Chamberlain stand next to Dr. Bedford’s dewar during the summer of 1973.
Whatever else may be said of your son Norman and your wife, one thing that is clear and incontestable is their fierce loyalty to you and your wish at a second chance at life. I never met your wife, but I have been told via Norman that while neither she nor he really “believed” in the workability of cryonics (Norman had apparently held a more optimistic position early on) they were totally committed to carrying out your wishes “come hell or high water.” This they did, and they did so in the face of vituperative and hateful opposition from almost all around them. And they did it even without the support or encouragement of cryonicists.
Sometime early in 1976, Galiso notified Norman and your wife Ruby that they could no longer continue caring for you. Their liability insurer had gotten wind of your presence in the facility and was threatening to withdraw coverage if you were not moved. On 31 July, 1976 you were transferred to the facilities of Trans Time, Inc., a commercial cryonics service provider in Emeryville, California (Emeryville is a suburb of Berkeley). Norman drove you up himself on a rented U-Haul trailer. You remained at Trans Time until 1 June, 1977 and were then picked up by Norman and again transported by U-Haul trailer to Southern California. The reason for this transfer was reportedly unhappiness at the “escalating billing and high cost of storage with Trans Time.”
I don’t know where you were cared for after 1 June of ’77; my questions about this to Norman and Cecelia were politely but firmly deflected.
Late in 1981 or early in 1982 my curiosity and my worry about what had happened to you began to get the better of me. By that that time it had become clear that no one placed into cryonic suspension before 1973 had survived. Every patient had either been lost at Chatsworth or been conventionally disposed of by the relatives who placed them into suspension. With one possible exception.
With greater ease than I anticipated, I located your son and daughter-in-law. I inquired about your status and explained that we might be able to help them pursue continued care for you in a more secure environment, and perhaps even at lower cost, since we were getting some economies of scale in storing several patients.
It was also my bet that if they were caring for you themselves they were faced with major logistic problems which they must be very weary of. I was correct in this surmise. Cryogenic liquid suppliers don’t “set appointments” to deliver liquid. The best they can usually do is tell you if they will be coming by in the morning or in the afternoon. They will virtually never deliver to a residence since the LS-160 liquid containers are heavy and must be carted or rolled; liability is another major concern. I realized that your family must be doing what we had to do, namely spend two or possibly three days a month waiting all day long for a delivery, and occasionally sitting all of the next day as well if you ended up at the end of the driver’s day and he had one too many deliveries to make. . . .
As it turned out, the situation was worse than I imagined. Not only was your family having the problems I imagined, they were being gouged by the cryogenics company as well. The company had figured out what was in the tank they were pulling up to service twice a month, and they tacked on a $60.00 delivery charge for every fill — in addition to the fifty cents or so a liter they were charging for the liquid nitrogen. While it is true that a 1967 dollar went a lot further than a 1982 dollar (a 1967 dollar was worth 2.5 times what a 1982 dollar was worth) those amounts of money were non-trivial. In short they were starting to feel real economic as well as personal pressure.
However, they were very wary of us. Their past experiences with everyone from family members to cryonics organizations had apparently been uniformly bad where your suspension was concerned. Nevertheless, they decided to take the chance and pursue storage with us. An agreement was worked out, and at 1:30 P.M. on 14 February you and the Galiso dewar were loaded onto the Cryovita van from a “self storage miniwarehouse” in Burbank. What’s a miniwarehouse, you may be wondering? I won’t attempt to try to explain the cultural and economic changes which created such a thing; there should be other sources of information available to you there. Suffice it to say that by the 1980’s large complexes of rental storage space in garage-sized slots were widely available and widely used by average people who had too much chattel to store in their own garages or apartments. It was in one such 10′ by 10′ or so slot that you were being kept when we picked you up. It is my impression that you had been cared for at that location for some time.
So, on a sunny, smoggy day in 1982, our paths crossed for a second time. Our care for you was provided through Cryovita Laboratories, a “for- profit” cryonics service provider similar to Trans Time. The difference was that Jerry Leaf, who headed Cryovita, was deeply concerned that your suspension continue and he, like me, just wanted to see the liquid nitrogen bills paid and you remain in storage.
In 1982 Alcor was very small, with almost no assets and only four patients in suspension. We were operating out of the rented facilities housing Cryovita. Our whole operation was crammed, and I do mean crammed, into a 1600-square-foot industrial bay located at 4030 North Palm, Unit #304, in Fullerton, California. There you remained in the back of the building, just inside the roll-up, steel curtain door. Your dewar was serviced by myself and Hugh Hixon.
Cryovita Laboratories, 4030 N. Palm, Suite #304, Fullerton, California, Dr. Bedford’s home from 14 February, 1982 to 17 February, 1987.
Dr. Bedford in the patient care area of the Fullerton facility (lower right). We’ve come a long way since then!
Cryonics began to grow again, after a long hiatus resulting in no small part from the actions of Nelson at Chatsworth. More importantly, we began to lay down what we hoped was a more solid base than had ever been present before.
So much happened between 1982 and now. The first years you were at Cryovita were very calm. I look back on that time as a quiet, yet highly productive period. Alcor and Cryovita were definitely out of the limelight, and the few of us then working on cryonics were able to focus our energy and attention on laying down basic policies and procedures that would serve us well in the coming years. It was also a time when we were doing research. On the other side of the flimsy “wood” paneled wall (there were open studs on the side where you rested) from where your dewar sat, we were washing out the blood of dogs and cooling them down to a few degrees above freezing using a completely “defined,” artificial perfusate. This was path-breaking research, being done on a shoestring; the very kind of work you and Norman envisioned the Bedford Foundation undertaking.
During this period we were also did a suspension, although certainly not the way you would have envisioned. A new method of cryonic suspension, neurosuspension (brain or head only) had been introduced in 1976. Alcor also completed a series of demanding studies on the effects of then-in-use cryonic suspension procedures. It was a happy, productive period in my life.
By 1986 we had grown to the point that we were able to afford our own facility. Indeed, we had little choice. Cryovita and Alcor soon lost liability insurance as a result of being a cryonics business, and we were told by our landlord that we would be evicted unless we moved out immediately. We raised almost all of the money needed to buy a facility in cash and moved. On 17 February, 1987 you were moved to our brand new facility at Riverside, California. The events which have occurred in the years intervening between 1987 and the time this letter is being written would take hundreds of pages to document. We will soon have back issues of Cryonics magazine on microfilm, and we will add a copy of those issues to the patient record files. Hopefully you’ll be able to read that history for yourself.
Your wife Ruby died in 1987, and in September Norman, acting on instructions from Ruby, transferred your care directly and irrevocably to Alcor. It was Ruby’s wish that your care be taken over by an organization that had a real chance of seeing you through the distance. The five years of care that we provided, and provided both lovingly and fairly, was the evidence that she needed. Ruby was cremated a few days after her death. As of now, it appears that where immediate family is concerned, you will be making the journey into tomorrow alone.
In a little over six months you will have been in uninterrupted cryonic suspension for 25 years. You were the first man ever frozen and you are still frozen. That is an incredible accomplishment, and one in which we (Alcor and Cryovita) take no small measure of pride in having contributed to. The two-decade-long legal battle over your suspension long ago exhausted the money you had set aside for your care. You are now Alcor’s responsibility financially as well as morally. Alcor Director Jerry Leaf has personally absorbed most of the cost of providing your care and has provided additional insurance on his own life to cover your continued suspension. This is an incredibly generous act on his part.
On Saturday, 25 May 1991, we removed you from the Galiso unit which, like all “sealed-in-the-field” units, was failing. We wrapped you in an additional sleeping bag, secured you in an aluminum “pod” and transferred you to one of our new, state-of-the-art dewars, which boils off about what the Galiso unit did, but holds four patients, including yourself. Other advantages are no more careening around the freeway every year or so to Galiso or elsewhere for a re-vac, and we now have two vertical units, each capable of storing four patients, sitting where your single patient, horizontal unit once rested.
I was very anxious about what we would find when we opened the Galiso unit. You had been enclosed and shielded from view in that dewar for just over 21 years; indeed you were welded into it. What were the odds that you had never been allowed to warm up during the years of storage in the badly malfunctioning Cryo-Care unit? What were the odds that your dewar had been faithfully serviced during the years you were at Galiso and subsequently when you were being cared for by your son and daughter-in- law? Never letting a dewar run dry is not an easy thing to accomplish. Deliveries must be carefully scheduled around holidays and so on. . . . I must confess, pessimist that I am, I felt the odds that your condition was “good” were pretty slim (if good is ever an adjective to use to describe a straight-frozen patient!).
I cannot describe the feeling of elation I had when I peeled back the sleeping bag that enclosed you and saw that you appeared intact and well cared for. What’s more, that the water ice that Nelson had said was left on you when you were transferred to dry ice was still there and unmelted. Whatever else has happened, you have remained frozen all these years. Few things in my life have satisfied and elated me more completely than has that knowledge.
I would like to think that my actions have been important in getting you to the tomorrow that you (and we) so hope for. History will be the judge of that.
Above all, I want to thank you for starting me on an incredible adventure. You really did change my life, and both directly and indirectly your actions may have vastly lengthened my life as well! I hope I have returned the favor with the actions I have taken.
I am well aware as I write this that the struggle is far from over. Now our opponents are the State of California, which seems bent on ending your suspension — as well that of the other cryonics patients in this State. The battle is far from over and far from won.
Dr. Bedford, I hope we really meet someday. I am not sure we will have much in common, save perhaps for the heritage of the culture and era which we both shared. We will both have lost friends and family who chose not to accompany us; that sadness we will also have in common. But far more importantly, we will have the joy, the sheer, unbounded joy of being alive in a universe where we can move freely, unchained from the bonds of gravity, earth, and time. And your dream, the dream of reaching a tomorrow where you can resume living, will have been realized.
So too, the passionate dream of that 12 year-old boy from Indianapolis, Indiana will also have come true. At long last, via a path at least as strange and convoluted as the one you have followed, he will be able to live and work in space, and walk on other worlds.
Until then, au revoir.
30 May, 1991