Sunday, January 26, 2014

CPR in the real world

Last Monday evening, at the last minute, Art and I took a refresher CPR course at our resort. It's gotten simpler through the years. Now, if there's a witnessed cardiac arrest, CPR is chest compressions only. If a person's heart stops beating suddenly, there's oxygen already in the blood. The chest compression squeezes the heart to pump the oxygen to the vital organs of the body. The thinking these days is that the "two quick breaths" doesn't increase the chances of survival. I did my practice on a dummy under the watchful eye of a second-year University of Arizona medical student. Then we were shown how to operate an AED, a defibrillator that talks the user through the procedure, from placing the pads correctly, to running the analysis, to generating the shock if necessary. We were given the locations for the five defibrillators on the resort. Then we walked home.

Yesterday after lunch, Art and I rode our bicycles over to the pickleball courts to try our hand at this new sport. He was winning 10-8. He walked to retrieve the ball and suddenly clutched his left knee and approached the bench on the side to sit down. He had that knee replaced two summers ago and I was concerned he might have wrenched the appliance. I sat down beside him. "Does your knee hurt?" Art shook his head. "Does anything hurt?" He didn't answer. I looked at his face and it didn't look right. Out of my 65-year-old brain floated the questions you ask a person you suspect may be having a stroke. Can they repeat a complete sentence you give them? Can they smile? Can they raise both their arms? Art repeated the sentence faintly. Then he slumped into me.

I looked up. At the end of the pickleball court, half a dozen men were chatting. "Call 9-1-1",  I shouted. First step, remembered from my CPR training five days earlier.

I could see most of the men running toward me. "Let's get him on the ground," one said. Art resisted a little, but he was transferred from the bench to the ground by three of the men. He was breathing, gasping a little. One of the men said, "I'm a retired fire chief. The AED is on  the way." Someone had run 100 feet to retrieve one of the five defibrillators.

"Start CPR," said the chief. "He's still breathing," I responded. "You're not supposed to do it when they're breathing."

Then he wasn't breathing. No chest rising and falling, no pulse. Art was in cardiac arrest; his heart had stopped. I placed my hands over my husband's chest and started CPR. I thought his chest felt exactly like the dummy I'd practiced on. I paced myself for 100 compressions a minute, remembering the song "Staying Alive" which has the beat I needed to match.

The chief tore Art's t-shirt off, opened the AED box and extracted the shock pads. He placed one pad at the top left of Art's chest, the other at the bottom right. He pushed a button and the machine said, "Analyzing."

I was still doing CPR. A man standing over me said, "Want me to spell you?" I said, "I'm okay for now, but if you help, you need to kneel on the other side of his body to be ready to take over for me."

The AED said, "prepare to execute shock". The machine will only shock if there is no heartbeat or an arrhythmia that can be fixed. We pulled away and Art was shocked. His body jerked, drool oozed down the side of his mouth, and he opened his eyes.

He was alert as to place and time. The men remained with him until the paramedics arrived. The chief told the EMTs what had happened and passed the responsibility on to them. Then he said, "I'm going back over to the pool." I called to him and asked his name. Scott. A resident of the resort. I didn't get his last name. I need to thank him.

Art was transported to the University of Arizona Medical Center South Campus and I arrived by car about 45 minutes later. A cardiologist would be doing a cardiac catheterization. The procedure would take about an hour, he said. If they found anything they would probably fix it while they were in there. If a stent or a bypass was needed they would do it then. An hour later, the doc came out. "The best possible news. His arteries are clear. He did not have a heart attack."

In ICU for 15 hours, all the tests were run. Echocardiogram showed no damage to the heart. Blood work showed very low potassium levels, which is probably the cause of the cardiac arrest. Within six hours of admission Art's heart rhythm returned to normal; it has remained that way for 20 hours now. Potassium levels are now normal. Art is eating like a horse, texting friends, talking to visitors. He may be released tomorrow.

My husband's heart stopped. CPR performed by me kept the blood flowing to his vital organs until the AED shocked his heart back to life. Amazing.

I have no idea how I remembered CPR. It seemed natural to be kneeling there on the ground ministering to my husband. I felt no fear.

Then this morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m., full of fear and unable to go back to sleep. The adrenaline that kept me going had worn off.  It has been a busy day - six more hours at the hospital, talking to doctors, talking to five of our eight children by text and by phone, answering emails from concerned friends, remembering to eat from time to time.

I am very tired tonight. I hope I will sleep.

I saved a life. That's CPR in the real world.


Deere Driver said...

Linda , Linda, Linda! You acted like me when Dave went down. You just zone in and do what needs to get done. You are amazing and I'm so glad you are, and yes, it will catch your gut after the fact. But when the panic hits, call your family and friends and keep telling the story. Its like grieving. They can help you breath now.

I would want you to be one of my team any day.

My best to you and good recovery to Art! Love, Rose

Linda Reeder said...

Linda, I have been following this story on Facebook with such mixed emotions. I wanted to panic with you, but you didn't. It was so frightening, and I worried because I don't have recent CPR training and I wouldn't know what to do. I am so happy that your husband is going to be all right. And I am once again amazed by you.

Barb said...

Good for you. I agree, its that automatic response.You don't remember that you remembered until it was time. And good for them for having a defibrillator near by.

Terra said...

What stunning events and I am amazed by how you kept cool and did just the right things like CPR. Now that Art is doing well you can go ahead and do a bit of collapse, that was emotionally very difficult. Bless you and Art.

Madeline Kasian said...

Oh,Linda, what an ordeal!! You went on automatic pilot and it saved his life!!! Now, take a few days to recoup, to relax and spend a little time on yourself! Bravo!! I am so glad to hear it was not an actual heart attack. Hopefully some diet changes will fix the issue.Have a good week ahead, you deserve it!

DJan said...

This hits so close to home for me, as it's exactly what happened to my son when he was 40. But there was no one administering CPR right away, and by the time his fellow soldiers got to him, he was gone. It's amazing how you just did what you had to do, and then afterwards collapsed with fear. The best possible outcome, Linda, I am so glad for you and Art.

Out on the prairie said...

good to hear he is better

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Wow. Once in a while, things align themselves perfectly. You had some training, there was a defibrillator nearby along with people who could really help. I think it's time for hubby and me to get some training. And thanks for the tip about "Stayin' Alive." Congrats to you, and all the best to Art.

Tom said...

Whew ... scary! Good for you; glad he's okay; and hope he does well going forward. I'm not surprised you then bolted awake up at 4 a.m.!

Olga said...

Oh, Linda. Amazing, amazing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Art.

Perpetua said...

Linda, I'm so glad that your training and your clearheadedness came together when it really mattered. Of course it's all catching up with you after the event, but you did a wonderful thing and I'm so happy for you both that it wasn't a heart attack.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am totally amazed at how cool you were and how you and the chief did the exact correct thing. You saved his life.
Do take care of yourself and I hope they can regulate Art with meds or diet. You are both in my prayers.

Sasha + Saku said...

Thank goodness you'd done the refresher training, and were able to remain calm and do what needed to be done. Having the assistance of others was fortuitous as well. Amazing!

Take care, both of you!

Sally Wessely said...

First of all let me just say that you are amazing. Secondly, you are inspiration on so many levels. Thirdly, you are a hero. You are amazing because you were trained and ready when the need arose for CPR to administered. You inspire me and inform me. I need to make sure that my husband and I get this training. The outcome could have been so different.

Did he have a prolonged QT interval? I had a prolonged QT that showed up on an EKG this fall. Now, I must admit that I fear going into sudden cardiac arrest and not having anyone near who knows what to do. So far, my docs aren't concerned, but I am.

Linda, you are truly a hero. This story is just amazing.

Mango Coffee and Me said...

Dear Linda, you already know what I feel…your actions were incredible and Art is a very lucky man. Glad you are on the team. It would be so different without you. XXX Joanna

wheels4me said...

Good job!

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

Just so you know, I think you might be a hero!

The post of beautifully written and clear. We will all pay very close attention to your information.

Thank you.


Grandmother Mary said...

Good God, you saved his life! The importance of CPR .

Marty said...

Wow. What a day to find your blog.
I'm so glad everything worked out and I'm very impressed indeed by your clear thinking and straightforward actions!

Deb Shucka said...

Such an amazing story! You save your husband's life. You remembered what you needed to and you stayed calm and clear. It's a miracle underpinned with preparation. I'm glad Art is okay, and hope you do something special for yourself to replenish.

Unknown said...

Aloha Linda, As a survivor of a recent cardiac arrest, the teach point hear I think is for those whom we love including our neighbors have the skill & knowledge to provide CPR to someone in need. Thanks to my neighbor who was an off-duty fireman and home at the time, gave me immediate CPR until an AED arrived
and after two shocks to my heart, I began breathing on my own! I am very humbled by the thought that he was available at the time when I and my family needed someone. If it wasn't for him, I would not be writing you this comment! Less than 13% of those who have a cardiac arrest survive! Why? There is no immediate medical help available at the time of the arrest. More importantly, providing our love ones with the knowledge to perform CPC I think is critical and I plan on providing my neighborhood with several CPR classes and an AED in the event one might be needed. Providing immediate compression to the heart until medical help arrives can be the difference between life or death or at least a quality of life that I would like to continue. Like my neighbor, you saved my life - you gave me a second chance! Not very many people get a second chance - I am 'humbled!'

Unknown said...
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