Back from the Brink: Heart Patient Survives With Help From Emergency Personnel

Friday, May 6, 2011 General News
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LOS ANGELES, May 5, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It started as a typical day for retired Fire Chief Fred

Gies, but it would be anything but normal. As he did on so many mornings before, the Lakewood resident had made coffee for his wife Cathy, an administrator for Memorial HealthCare IPA. Later that April afternoon,
he was staring at his crossword puzzle and hoping to finally finish it. Suddenly, he began having excruciating chest pains. They continued as Fred started to sweat despite his cold chills. He knew he was in trouble and called his wife on her cell phone, but Cathy was on another call.  Their youngest daughter—also an employee of the IPA--happened to be in Cathy's office and answered the cell phone. The next few minutes were critical.

Fred asked his daughter, "Where's your mom? I need your mom!"  She asked, "What's wrong daddy?" and Fred said he was having chest pain. She responded "Mom is on the way," hung up and dialed 911. Several minutes later, LA County engine 94 arrived at the Gies residence, followed by paramedic squad 45. They saw Fred collapse as they entered the house.

 The fire fighters had already started CPR on Fred when Cathy arrived on the scene. They defibrillated Fred twice while continuing CPR, as Cathy watched helplessly. The engine captain told her they were doing all they can. "I asked them to take my husband to the heart center in Long Beach, but they told me he wouldn't make it," Cathy says. "He assured me that Lakewood Regional Medical Center had everything in place to help my husband."  As Fred was rushed via ambulance to the hospital, he was defibrillated twice more as paramedics continued to work on him.

The engine captain was right. As a STEMI receiving center for heart attack victims, Lakewood Regional indeed provided the medical expertise to handle Fred's near-death condition. The STEMI team had to defibrillate Fred four more times before rushing the comatose man to the cardiac cath lab for an angioplasty.  Interventional cardiologists inserted three stents, which successfully opened the arteries on one side of Fred's heart. But doctors were wary of the potential damage to Fred's brain. They decided to place Fred, who was on life support, into a state of hypothermia to halt the progression of any damage that may have occurred. Three days later, Fred opened his eyes, looked at Cathy and asked, "What happened?"

 "I honestly don't have any recollection of the events of that day," Fred now says. "I woke up on Sunday night in the ICU, and had a brief conversation with the nurses. My mental faculties were good. But I do remember the great medical care I received from the physicians, nurses and staff. They cared for me and listened to me.  My doctors and nurses recognized that I probably had experienced more trauma than most heart patients they see. I was told I died probably four times. Without the training, persistence and expertise of the entire team of paramedics and the STEMI team, they would likely be carving my headstone right now."

According to Jack Dobkin, DO, Director of Lakewood Regional's Cardiac Catheterization Lab, Fred was indeed very lucky that he received the spot-on, timely treatment he required. "In an event such as this, three things need to happen in very quick succession. The patient needs to be resuscitated so that the heart keeps pumping blood to the brain. The emergency responders did that through CPR and defibrillation. Secondly, the closed artery needs to be re-opened so the blood can flow, and that was accomplished when Fred had his angioplasty in the cath lab. And finally, the patient needs to be placed into a low level of hypothermia in order to prevent any ensuing damage to the brain. Fred is a living testimonial that every one of these interventions, when rapidly administered in the proper order, indeed saves lives."

Fred walked out of the hospital one week to the day after his near-death experience. His chest was tender from the relentless CPR he had received, but had no other lingering effects from his massive heart attack. "It wasn't my time," he says. "The paramedics told me they were not going to let me die, not on their watch. And they didn't. They made professional decisions to get me where I needed to be. Because of them and Lakewood Regional, my life began again."

Patrick Houston

Public Relations


SOURCE Lakewood Regional Medical Center

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