Bridgetown resident to be cryogenically frozen

Marta Sandberg with Noela Horsley  attending an Amnesty event at the Bridgetown Pottery Gallery.
Marta Sandberg with Noela Horsley attending an Amnesty event at the Bridgetown Pottery Gallery.

LONG-time Bridgetown resident and chronic community volunteer Marta Sandberg has enjoyed an interesting and varied life, including working as a journalist and currently as a director of a Cryonics Institute.

Ms Sandberg, who has always enjoyed life, has taken the big decision to come back in a century or two and maybe even to Bridgetown by being cryogenically frozen when she dies.

Her husband Helmer, a former US marine who passed away in 1994 of a brain tumour has been cryogenically frozen for about $200,000, and waits in the Detroit-based Cryonics Institute for a time when a human body can be brought back to life.

"I still miss Helmer," Ms Sandberg said.

"I still love him.

"We were together for over 20 years and they were years of joy and contentment."

Ms Sandberg said there were 116 patients in the Cryonics Institute in Detroit.

"We call a 'frozen person' a patient as that is how we think about them," she said.

"They are critically ill patients on an extreme form of life support.

"World-wide there are about 250 patients and about 2000 members with cryonic contracts."

Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation of humans and animals who can longer be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future.

Ms Sandberg points to current molecular research on brain nanotechnology which may slow down or stop the ageing process.

"We don't know how to cure old age yet," she said.

"We are working on it and conservatively we will have a cure in 80-100 years' time.

"In other words, you are part of the last generation that has to die from old age.

"That's annoying.

"Cryonics is a way of avoiding dying of old age just because you were born half a century too early."

Ms Sandberg said someone could be frozen for a very, very long time, possibly up to 40,000 years.

"Liquid nitrogen boils at minus 196 celsius and that is 'cold'," she said.

"When something gets that cold, biological and chemical and physical processes stop.

"The reason why you have to pay such a large sum to be frozen is to pay for perpetual care.

"I have often heard people ask how can we trust a cryonic organisation to keep us frozen.

"All cryonic organisations are run by cryonicists and that means the people who are directors, like me, have a very personal stake in keeping the organisation strong and stable as one day we will depend on it.

"So far that logic has worked for almost 40 years."

Ms Sandberg is deep into research studies.

"There are animals that don't suffer from ageing and there are even cells in your own body that are immortal, they are called the germ line," she said.

"That is the 'proof in principle' that old age isn't an inevitable effect of living.

"In the same way that seeing birds, bats and insects flying was 'proof in principle' that flight was possible long before us humans had figured out how to fly ourselves."

The two American and one Russian cryonic organisations do have attached to them highly qualified scientific advisory boards.

"There has been a lot of research done on freezing organs for 'normal' medical purposes and now freezing in liquid nitrogen is a routine procedure," Ms Sandberg said.

"Apart from thin organs, like skin and corneas, there are tens of thousands of people alive today that started out as frozen embryos."

When asked how she imagined to find the world when resuscitated Ms Sandberg said she doubted she would be frozen for 1000 years.

"My best guess is a century," she said. "I will have a lot to learn and this does not scare me.

"I have lived through a century of unprecedented change and I have learned how to adjust.

"In my time I have had several different careers and I have lived in lots of places and with different cultures.

"When I first came to Australia I barely spoke English and found almost everything about the country strange and confusing.

"I am sure I will learn to love my new century."

Ms Sandberg's country of origin is Sweden.

"My bucket list includes skiing down Mon Olympus on Mars and windsurfing the Red Spot on Jupiter - to do these I need to live beyond my three score and ten," she said.

However Ms Sandberg would have liked to have found Bridgetown just as she will leave it.

"Unfortunately that is not likely to happen, however it will still be breathtakingly beautiful," she said.

Ms Sandberg debunked myths around financing oneself as a cryonics patient.

"Most of it is paid when you have died, financed through life insurance," she said.

"The biggest problem I had was finding an insurance policy that was willing to sell me the appropriate insurance cover."

"For less than it costs to play the Lotto every week, I have a shot at living for another century or two. There is no guarantee it will work, however the chances of it occurring are greater than winning the Lotto."

She posed the moral question, of what's worthier - money or living?

Ms Sandberg said she hoped both she and Helmer could be revived together, however they haven't stipulated this as a condition.

"It is likely that I will be revived first as cryonics processes have become more sophisticated since Helmer was frozen, so there will be less damage to repair (with me)," she said.

"Whomever is revived first will be there to help and support the other."

Helmer's last words to his wife were "au revoir".