Archive for September, 2010

Bystanders Save Man at Racquetball Game

Posted by cocreator on September 27, 2010
Events / No Comments

As Dave San Jose tells what he remembers of his his story, his voice is a papery whisper.

The voice is as thin as the tissue difference between life and death, between health and debility. And San Jose could have landed on either side of that delicate line after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest in August at his thrice weekly racquetball game.

Dave San Jose the Survivor

But thanks to bystanders who provided immediate CPR, paramedics who responded promptly and a relatively new and brain-saving cooling therapy, the prospects are excellent that San Jose will recover completely.

“The whole system worked perfectly,” said the grateful and effervescent San Jose.

As a result the popular community activist and gadfly, known throughout Long Beach and particularly in his Northtown neighborhood, will be able to continue to deliver his particular brand of wit and wisdom.

He will also be able to continue his volunteer work with at-risk and impoverished youth through his nonprofit Bikes 90800.

Although San Jose still faces open heart bypass surgery Monday, the procedure is relatively low-risk and should return him to full health.

That everything worked just right for San Jose is an object lesson in the importance of CPR training for regular folk, rapid paramedic response and hospitals being properly outfitted with needed technology.

“Mostly what I want to focus on was the ability of the hospital to do the right things and the importance of bystander CPR,” said San Jose and his wife, Pat Long-San Jose, as they dined at Nino’s Restaurant on a recent afternoon.

San Jose said he and his wife had talked about what they would to do should he have a major health setback, such as a cardiac arrest. San Jose’s biggest fear was being debilitated and unable to care for himself.

“I didn’t want to be a burden on my wife,” San Jose says.

But that’s the predicament San Jose faced when his heart stopped and he collapsed Wednesday, Aug. 4 at the L.A. Fitness Club in Long Beach between games of racquetball.

The last thing San Jose remembers from that morning was chatting with a neighbor before heading off for his workout.

Luckily for San Jose, he hangs out with the right kind of people. On hand when San Jose collapsed were two doctors and a nurse, who immediately jumped in and began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Showing his trademark wit, San Jose jokes about his cardiac arrest.

“I don’t recommend doing this at home, but if you do it, plan it well,” San Jose says. “I had two doctors and a nurse.”

Although he can joke about it now, those first moments after the cardiac arrest may have made all the difference.

“If I had collapsed anywhere else, the outcome wouldn’t have been the same,” San Jose says.

Dr. Stuart Finkelstein, who often plays with San Jose, was the first on the scene. He was at the juice bar when San Jose staggered off the court.

“I could see he looked poorly,” Finkelstein said. “As he (passed) out, I caught him.”

Finkelstein said he thought San Jose, who suffers from diabetes, was suffering from hypoglycemia. San Jose briefly regained consciousness but went out again and turned blue.

He had crossed the line between life and death just that quickly and now time was everything.

Finkelstein began CPR and was immediately joined by Ashley Maselli, a pediatrics nurse at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, and Dr. Andrew Wittenberg, an emergency room doctor there.

Maselli had been on an exercise machine when she heard a commotion and saw San Jose go down.

“He went into full cardiac arrest,” Maselli said. “So I opened an airway, because it looked like he was trying to swallow his tongue and checked for a pulse, — there was none.”

Wittenberg had been leaving the gym when he was called back to help. He took over chest compressions and San Jose “pinked up,” according to Maselli, meaning he was getting oxygen.

“It felt like slow motion,” Maselli said. “He was really gone.”

Finkelstein said he went to get an automated external defibrillator to restart San Jose’s heart, but by that time paramedics had arrived and took over.

As San Jose was rushed out to the ambulance, Finkelstein noticed San Jose’s heart had gone asystolic, or flatline, and he wept.

“I thought he was dead,” he said. “I remembered that my dad had died in a health club. I was just a mess. It took me back to when my dad died.”

Maselli said she quickly cleared out with her two boys, 2 and 4 years old, so they wouldn’t have to watch.

Like Finkelstein she held out little hope.

“I was really not sure,” she said about whether San Jose would survive. “I know the statistics are pretty low when you get to the point where the heart is not functioning at all.”

A unit from Fire Station 9 arrived just 31/2 minutes after receiving the call.

Capt. Wes Ward said San Jose was pulseless. Firefighters defibrillated San Jose and within a half-minute firefighter paramedics Dave Rosa and Josh Hogan arrived.

“They went through their pack of tricks,” Ward joked.

The captain, a former paramedic, said San Jose had to receive multiple shocks before he arrived at the hospital. But when paramedics hit the doors at Memorial, just 22 minutes after the call was received, San Jose had a pulse and his blood pressure was up.

“I don’t think there’s another department around that could do that,” Ward said of the quick response and turnaround.

“In this case, quick response and rapid transit saved his life,” Ward said.

San Jose was still on the delicate edge between life and death, but now he had a fighting chance.

Pat, a nurse at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, was in a meeting when she heard the chilling news that her husband was being transported to the hospital.

Pat rushed to the emergency room, arriving shortly after her husband.

Pat and David had talked about what they would do if seriously stricken. Dave did not want to be kept alive by machinery. He feared becoming a vegetable or severely debilitated.

“All that went through my mind,” Pat said.

“I knew what it was all about, the procedures and the process,” Pat said. “You just have to leave it to them.”

But she was helpless to do anything but trust and believe in her hospital.

San Jose was immediately rushed to the heart catheterization lab, was given and angiogram and determined to fit the protocol for hypothermia treatment.

Pat could only wait.

“I’m a calm person so I’m just waiting,” she says. “I had a great deal of concern of course, but my mind was thinking, going through all the possibilities. I guess I was hoping and praying all the outcomes were good.”

Although it was clear San Jose had crossed the threshold between death and life, huge questions lingered about the quality of that life.

It would be days before Pat and doctors would know the extent of San Jose’s recovery and whether he’d emerge healthy or with some impairment, minor or severe.

“I’m thinking we had this discussion. If he had a severe impairment he didn’t want to be kept alive on a machine,” Pat said.

All Pat could do was wait as her husband slowly, oh, so slowly, began to return.

San Jose’s 70th birthday came and went in the hospital.

Three days after arriving, San Jose remained sedated on a breathing machine. Occasionally he could respond to commands by squeezing a hand.

With a breathing tube down his throat, San Jose couldn’t talk. Gradually he began responding to questions, blinking answers. But it was painstaking as meds were reduced and Pat worried.

“It’s hard to know,” Pat said of reading the signs, interpreting the myriad synapses and electric currents that flow through the body and must be perfectly tuned to avoid possibly disastrous outcomes.

On Tuesday, six days after the attack, the breathing tube was removed and San Jose regained consciousness.

Pat remembers the first real sign that Dave, the old Dave, was back came a day or so after he regained consciousness.

“He asked a nurse if she was Japanese,” Pat recalls. “Then he said ‘I’m Filipino.’ I knew once he could make that recognition, bring those connections and ask those questions that he’d be all right.”

San Jose spent 11 days in critical care unit and 17 days overall in the hospital.

San Jose remembers his first conscious thought was that he had suffered a seizure.

Regaining consciousness was only the first step. Next he had to relearn basic functions and skills.

“It’s like being a baby. You have to learn to feed yourself again,” San Jose said.

It was difficult for San Jose, particularly with his fear of “being a burden.”

Recovery came in fits and starts.

“I couldn’t walk,” San Jose recalls. “Then I’m thinking, am I going to be this way the rest of my life?”

But 17 days after suffering the attack, San Jose and Pat emerged from the hospital together.

Through his recovery and since leaving the hospital, San Jose says he has been overwhelmed by the well wishes and shows of support

“I never knew I was so loved,” San Jose says. “I think that’s what probably brought me back, I don’t know.”

In some ways the entire ordeal still seems surreal, especially for someone who has always been fit and healthy.

“I still can’t quite grasp it,” San Jose says of his near death experience.

For the record he adds that he doesn’t remembers seeing any lights or God or anything between when he left to play racquetball and woke up asking “What the hell happened?”

Since leaving the hospital, San Jose has been making the rounds, with Pat pressed into duty as his chauffeur. He has been back to the health club, and he visited the fire station. He has tried to thank those who saved him, though he doesn’t quite know how you do that.

Maselli said she stopped by to visit San Jose in the hospital and was amazed to hear his life story and the things he has done for underprivileged kids.

“He asked me what he could do to thank me,” Maselli said. “I said, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing. That’s the best thanks.'”

Finkelstein said he was thrilled to learn San Jose had survived and had little lingering damage.

“Boy, when he came back to the gym with his wife and daughter, in 30 years in medicine I’ve never felt so warm and fuzzy. It was a spiritual moment.”

The two racquetball foes shared a light-hearted moment when Finkelstein made San Jose promise not to keep bedeviling him with soft shots.

“I told him to hit the ball like a man,” Finkelstein joked.

Beneath the mirth, Finkelstein said he was amazed to learn San Jose’s narrative outside of the gym andsome of the deeper connections he and San Jose share outside of the gym they share.

Both have a passion for helping at-risk kids. Finkelstein, an addictions specialist, works with the 10-20 Club, a nonprofit in Downey that, among its services, offers classes on drug and alcohol abuse.

Finkelstein also learned that a former medical school classmate of his works with San Jose doing tattoo removals for former gang members.

Leave it to San Jose to come back and immediately begin forming associations and connections.

As for the future, San Jose doesn’t know where it will lead. He is wondering what to do with this second chance.

“The first life was quite a life,” San Jose says. “I wonder what the second one will be like.”

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School Staff Save Custodian

Posted by cocreator on September 22, 2010
Events / No Comments

At 9:29 a.m. on recent Monday, emergency crews were paged to the school to respond to a cardiac arrest call.

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Before paramedics arrived on the scene, the school’s emergency response team started CPR on David Freeman, a custodian at Surry Central in Dobson, who had suffered an apparent heart attack, and was eventually forced to use the school’s automatic external defibrillator.

“The staff there was very well trained and able to start CPR and use the automatic defibrillator,” said John Shelton, emergency services director. “They were able to start resuscitating him before the paramedics arrived.”

“The first response team at the school acted very quickly and appropriately,” said Sonia Dickerson, teacher quality coordinator and media contact for the school system. “We were told the first responders had done everything very well.”

The custodian was treated by members of the Dobson Rescue Squad and Surry County Emergency Medical Services before being transported to Northern Hospital of Surry. He was later transported to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center where he is thought to be in stable condition.

“We’re very thankful the training for our emergency response team worked just as it was supposed to and that we had the equipment there,” said Dickerson.

Mitzi Brickey, the daughter of the victim, said she could not express her gratitude enough to the members of a special response team who saved her father from the brink of death using their training and an automatic defibrillator.

Brickey hugged Dena Cave to thank her for what she did last Monday at Surry Central High School.

“What they did here, the team, they’re just like angels. They helped saved his life,” Brickey said.

Her father, David Freeman, had a heart attack at the school on Monday. When a fellow custodian called for help, the high school’s response team sprung to action.

“When they called me, I got here almost immediately, and David was sitting in the chair with his head back,” Cave said.

Cave, a long-time registered nurse, is in her third year as a health teacher. She said she and other members of the team started cardiopulmonary resuscitation and used the school’s defibrillator.

“Had all of us not been trained and not been prepared as we were, prepared to use the defibrillator, I don’t know (if) the outcome would have been the same,” Cave said.

Freeman was eventually taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, where he had an open-heart surgery. He is in stable condition, his daughter said.

Cave noted that the school created the special response team in 2009 precisely to take action in times of life or death situation.

“I think I can speak for all of us that we really want to take the attention off ourselves. We were doing only what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re a tight-knit group and a huge family together and we were doing what we would have done to help anybody,” Cave said.

Brickey said that life-saving should be a lesson to people all over the Piedmont.

“I just want everyone to know that they should be an example for other schools, churches and organizations to have something set up. Because one life saved would be worth all the work,” Brickey said.

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Cop Saves Woman Shopper

Posted by cocreator on September 22, 2010
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Susan Angell would have died on the floor of the produce section at Target if it weren’t for Curtis Russell.

“The last thing I remember, I picked up an apple, and I was looking at it, and I thought, ‘I’m going to faint,’ ” said Angell, 59, whose heart stopped beating for a few minutes on April 25.

Her next memory is waking up in an ambulance, and a paramedic telling her a police officer had saved her life.

Russell, the West Des Moines police officer, was on patrol north of the West Glen Target when someone at the store called 911. Russell was in his second week on solo patrol.

“I was just driving around, and I was probably a quarter-mile away when I got tripped to go there,” Russell, 24, said.

He flipped on the lights and siren, and started going over in his mind how he would use the automatic external defibrillator in his patrol car.

Somebody from the store waved him into the east entrance, and he found Angell on the floor, surrounded by 15 or 20 people.

He knelt next to her and used the defibrillator to monitor her heart rhythm. A nurse was with Angell, and told Russell they hadn’t been able to find a pulse for two minutes. The defibrillator then signalled Russell to administer the shock.

“Right when it said ‘shock advised,’ that’s when the medics ran in,” Russell said.

He pressed the red button, and then did two sets of compressions, pushing on her sternum.

“Like a snap she woke up and said ‘Ow!’ kind of like she was dreaming,” Russell said.

Paramedics put her on a stretcher, and rolled her out to the ambulance.

“It never really hit me until one of the medics looked over and she said, ‘Great job,’ ” Russell said. “I was kind of in the zone, but then it came back to reality.”

He had saved the life of a mom, a friend. Angell, who lives in south Des Moines, is a retired teacher. She taught French at Lincoln High School for 25 years.

“I’m so grateful to him,” she said of Russell.

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Church Saves Great-Great-Grandmother during Service

Posted by cocreator on September 20, 2010
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The last thing Sallie Sims remembers about going to a funeral last week at CrossPoint Church of Christ was wondering if she would know the fourth verse to the hymn “No Setting Sun.”

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“I finished the song and then, the next thing, I was in an ambulance, and a man was trying to put oxygen on me,” Sims said. “I told him I didn’t like having anything on my face.”

Sims is living proof that having an automated external defibrillator, or AED, on site can make a difference in whether a person lives after the onset of sudden cardiac death.

CrossPoint bought its defibrillator in 2006 at the urging of a church elder. Staff members rushed to get the device when Sims collapsed.

Sallie Sims the Survivor

“We had just finished the music for the funeral, and the first speaker had gotten up when (Sims) fell over, out of her seat,” said CrossPoint preacher Frank Mills. “Someone yelled, ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ and luckily we had several there at that time, and they rushed to her.”

Bob Man, a local physician, said Sims didn’t have a pulse and was turning blue.

“We were giving CPR, by compressions and mouth-to-mouth, and she was shocked (with the defibrillator),” he said. “She didn’t start back right after she was shocked, and the machine was getting ready to shock her a second time when she started breathing on her own again.”

“Based on what I’ve been told, I’m convinced if not for the church having that (AED) she would not be with us today,” said Sims’ niece, Stacy White. “She was gone; there was no heart beat, but thanks to the defibrillator, she’s alive.”

White said her aunt doesn’t have a history of heart problems and didn’t have any symptoms, nor did she feel bad the day of the funeral. But the 71-year-old great-great-grandmother had to have five stents placed in the arteries in her heart.

“When I saw her in the emergency room, I told her she didn’t look like she had just had a heart attack,” White said. “She looked good, just like always.”

Mann said Sims suffered a sudden cardiac death because of a rhythm problem.

Bruce Carson, director of Keller and Lauderdale EMS, said the situation with Sims is a perfect example of how AEDs are intended to be utilized.

“This is the outcome that all emergency professionals want to see,” Carson said. “There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that early defibrillation and CPR saved this woman’s life. The swift action by the people there, and the early shock, was the absolute key to her survival.”

He said all volunteer fire departments and first responders have AEDs.

Mann said two years ago a similar situation occurred at Walmart in Florence.

“A woman was there, and she had a heart attack,” Mann said. “The store had an AED, and the manager used it to bring her back. I would encourage any public place to have them.”

Mark Killen, recreation outreach minister at CrossPoint, said church staff have gone through basic CPR training and have been trained on how to use the defibrillator.

“We’re considering buying a portable oxygen tank just to have in case of emergencies, and we plan on having refresher courses for the staff and any members who want to attend,” Killen said.

He said the situation with Sims was the first time the church used the AED.

“Our hope is that it hangs on the wall and we never have to use it again,” Killen said.

“There is a need for these in all churches and all public places,” said Jerry Dowd, who was sitting next to Sims when she collapsed. “Until you see it work, you may be skeptical, but I saw the results. Even if you only have to use it once, it pays dividends like in this case.”

Sims said Mann came to see her in the intensive care unit after her surgery to place the stents in her arteries.

“He said he would not call me lucky, but that I had a blessed day,” she said. “Without that machine, I wouldn’t have made it. The machine was my salvation.

“I’ve been told I was a medical miracle,” she said. “I must be.”

Sims’ friend, Julia Dowd, said while the doctors and other emergency medical officials worked on Sims at the church, people in the church prayed.

“It was a like a Hallmark story with a happy ending,” she said.

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Family & Firefighter Save Elderly at Home

Posted by cocreator on September 18, 2010
Events / No Comments

It was around 8:20 p.m. on Aug. 12 when the 66-year-old Terry Sparks, grandfather of five, who suffers from congestive heart failure, collapsed at the foot of his bed after a day of changing his vehicle’s oil and cutting wood.

Terry Sparks the Survivor

“The last thing I remember is getting out of bed to get my pills because my heart was racing, and the next thing I knew I was in the back of an ambulance,” he said.

Fortunately for Sparks and his wife Jean, who heard the crash, their daughter Cindy McCreadie lives a stone’s throw away in the same rural dooryard and could be quickly summoned by her mom on an intercom that links the two homes.

McCreadie is a nurse, as is her husband Kenny who was just returning home from a shift at the Saint John Regional Hospital when the emergency happened.

Sparks, who weighed 270 pounds at the time of the episode, was unresponsive and not breathing when his daughter rushed to his aid. He was curled up on the floor, and as she worked to unfold the burly man so she could begin CPR in the confined space, Jean called 911.

“I could only hear little gasps coming from him and I was terrified,” McCreadie explained. “I call it controlled hysteria. I was doing what I needed to do but I was hysterical at the same time.”

Within moments, Cpl. Andy O’Connell of the RCMP, who was working in the area, was on the scene and took over CPR for McCreadie. Her husband Kenny also arrived home around the same time to take his turn.

That is when Sparks’ luck really turned around.

Kim Giddens, a Belleisle firefighter and trainer for St. John Ambulance, was just a couple minutes away when a call came from the province’s medic centre to respond to the Sparks residence. Normally the fire department wouldn’t get such a call but on that night in the rural area, paramedics requested assistance and so the volunteers were permitted to attend as a medical first responder as the ambulance made its way there.

Giddens performed CPR with breaks from Sparks’ family members until fire chief Bruce Sherwood arrived with the rescue truck and the automatic external defibrillator (AED) the fire department raised funds to buy a few years ago.

What happened over the next few minutes saved Sparks’ life.

Four firefighters including Giddens, Rick Reicker, Alex Boyd and Sherwood worked to exhaustion on Sparks, who remained unconscious. Following the direction of the defibrillator, which Giddens calls “idiot proof,” the firefighters delivered a mix of CPR and two shocks to Sparks’ chest.

On the second kick-start to his heart, Sparks’ arms flailed to the side with a jerk and firefighters were able to find a pulse on his wrist.

“It’s the first time we have ever been advised to shock,” Giddens said, pointing out the dire situation Sparks was actually in.

The senior instantly started to breathe and his normal skin colour was returning as the ambulance workers rushed into the house. With the help of the firefighters, Sparks was loaded into the ambulance and taken to the Saint John Regional Hospital where he spent eight days. During his stay, he had a pacemaker and a palm-sized defibrillator implanted in his chest.

“When I found out about what these guys did, I couldn’t believe it,” he added during a recent visit from the four firefighters who saved his life. “There are chances you take by living in the country, but to know these people are so well-trained and had a piece of equipment that saved my life, well, I just never knew how lucky we are here.

“I know I would have been dead if they hadn’t been here. It was the first people who had their hands on me that night that saved my life.”

The fire chief said the only time his department can help at medical calls is when they are contacted by medical dispatch asking specifically for assistance based on an ambulance’s distance away and the patient’s condition.

In all, Giddens estimates Sparks was unconscious for about 25 minutes before his heart started working again thanks to the defibrillator.

“He wouldn’t have survived much longer,” she said, applauding the efforts of Sparks’ family and the police officer for starting CPR right away, greatly increasing his chances of a recovery.

“The key was that as soon as he went down, someone knew how to give CPR.”

Sparks said he is recuperating well and has a new outlook on life. He has lost weight and is eating healthier, and has learned to relax.

“I appreciate all the things now you take for granted every day,” Sparks said.

“Something like this really puts life in perspective. My young fella always says, ‘Dad, don’t sweat the small stuff.’ Now I don’t.”

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