Sunday, June 14, 2009


The terminator that had Arnold Schwarzenegger's features before they were burned away. Note the sternal and costal pectoralis major fibers still clinging to the left chest and shoulder.

My husband, the cartoonist, suggested that perhaps Governor Schwarzenegger was one of the unfortunates captured and experimented on by Skynet, in the early years. Despite his history of steroid use, the former Mr. Universe is a healthy specimen for his age. Obviously, humans trust their politicians more than they ought. The machines probably considered him an obvious choice when it came to making a human prototype.

Marcus has a big fight with the metallic core of a terminator that had the visage and physique of the governor of California. The "living tissue" doesn't last long on this particular Terminator. It is flayed off of him in an explosion. Marcus and the faceless Terminator are duking it out in the factory where the girl finds the power cells, by the by.

The Terminator punches Marcus in the chest with enough power to cause his human heart (encased in a metallic superstructure) to go into ventricular fibrillation. (I'm assuming his heart is fibrillating based on what happens next.) Marcus collapses, of course. Ventricular fibrillation is the cause of many massive deadly heart attacks in this country.

Ventricular fibrillation essentially means that the muscle of the heart starts to quiver instead of contracting rhythmically. I believe I've read somewhere that severe trauma to cardiac muscle (such as a crushing blow to the chest) could cause VF. The cardiac muscle cells are still contracting, but the contractions are uncoordinated so blood can't be pushed out of the heart.

Connor is left to fight the Terminator alone. He tries, but the terminator is a Terminator, so it doesn't go well. In desperation, Connor goes to the still form of Marcus and tries to revive him. As is appropriate with ventricular fibrillation, Connor gives Marcus a "precordial thump ... (delivered with a clenched fist raised 10 to 30 cm [about 8 to 12 in.] above the sternum and brought down firmly)(1)."
Image of precordial thump technique from the great blog,

The precordial thump doesn't seem to work. No surprise since Marcus' heart is encased in super-hard metal, and Connor is a puny human, not the god he thinks he is. (More on the possible types of metal in a future post.) What is Connor to do? In true MacGyver fashion, he uses the materials at hand.

Connor pulls two electrical cables from the wall of the factory and uses them as a cyborg defibrillator. Ventricular fibrillation is treated by direct current defibrillation(2). We see this in moves all the time. For example, in Casino Royal, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) defibrillates James Bond (Daniel Craig) after he's been poisoned by digitalis.

Connor gives Marcus a huge jolt of electricity from the cables. I admire this gimmick because it is exactly the kind of thing I might suggest for a movie of this type. Which is not to say that it would work, or that I understand anything about electricity. I'm not sure if Marcus' heart would have remained a lump of raw meat, or if Connor would be smelling barbecue.

If he was a normal person, Marcus' heart would have to be revived within 4-6 minutes in order to prevent brain damage from lack of blood and oxygen to his brain. We assume Connor makes the deadline, Marcus revives and saves the day. However, Marcus can't prevent the terminator from driving a big piece of metal through Connor's chest. The spike appears to penetrate from back to front, and emerges just next to the sternum around ribs 5 or 6.

Even with this wound, Connor can breathe and remain conscious. Here he is escaping to the helicopter with Marcus. He looks pretty good, doesn't he? Very alert, no palor, doesn't seem to be burbling blood...
Next time, ruminations about Marcus' heart.

1. Once again, my bedside Merck Manual, 16th Edition, p 524, comes in handy. Okay, it's not really bedside.
2. Sources vary on the amount of electricity needed to re-establish heart rhythm. According to Merck Online, a fibrillating patient is given a jolt of 120-300 joules. A really interesting article on the history of defibrillators describes an automatic emergency defibrillator as packing a 100 kilowatt punch in its charge, with a quick reverse current at the end. I went to to see if I could put joules and kilowatts in context for myself. I got confused trying to figure out volts, joules, watts, etc. I never watch an electrician on TV. I gave up trying to understand this stuff after about 15 minutes. Any help, anyone?


  1. I'm going to have to go see this movie so I can finally read the posts!