Some pointers on how to accomplish it
By Harold Miller
My wife Janet had an 11 a.m. appointment at Auburn’s Diagnostic Imaging Center Aug. 30 for a routine examination. She arrived on the dot at 11, but complained to the woman at the front desk that she was nauseous and dizzy. Then she collapsed in cardiac arrest (her heart had stopped beating).
The technician on duty at the Diagnostic Imaging Center called 9-1-1 at 11:05. An ambulance operated by TLC Emergency Medical Services arrived at 11:08. The paramedics shocked her heart three times, gave her three shots of adrenalin, installed a breathing tube, and began CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) — all of which re-established a weak and fluttering heart beat (ventricular fibrillation).
Janet arrived at Auburn Community Hospital’s emergency room at 11:24 a.m. where our friend and neighbor Rama Godishala — her cardiac physician — was standing by to oversee her continued CPR. After an hour’s of punishing chest pounding, her heart stabilized to the point where she could be transferred to St. Joseph Hospital in Syracuse. Later, Dr. Godishala told me he would not have given Janet one chance in a million to last the trip from Auburn to Syracuse.
I was not in Auburn during the time that this horrible scenario unfolded; therefore I met with Lon Fricano, director of operations for TLC Emergency Medical Services, who filled me in on the foregoing description of the split-second timing and dedication that undoubtedly saved Janet’s life. I call them heroes but Lon gently reminded me that saving lives is their daily job.
I say different.
Beyond technical training and the stressful activity of CPR, there is a driving motivation to go above and beyond. Lon told me that after cardiac arrest, clinical death occurs in four to six minutes (the heart is dead but the other organs are still functioning) and total death occurs in about 10 minutes. For the highly motivated workers of this incredible organization TLC is more than just a logo — incidentally, TLC stands for tender, loving, care.
Janet beat all the odds and made it to St. Joseph Hospital where ongoing emergency lifesaving treatment continued. Four ribs were broken and one pierced a lung, which collapsed (very common for CPR procedures). She was bleeding profusely within her chest cavity and the collapsed lung. Blood transfusions were administered and drainage tubes were inserted.
This is the condition that I saw when I entered her room for the first time. The hospital cardiologist warned me not to expect too much as far as recovery was concerned. What the doctors did not know was that my girl lived a clean life (never smoked, not overweight, healthy diet) and exercised virtually every day.
Janet walked about a mile and a half every morning around the loop road at Martin Point on the shores of Owasco Lake. Then she went to the YMCA to swim followed by more exercise in the gym. In the afternoon we usually swim in the lake, along with a group of neighbors. Her exercise regimen in Florida is very much the same except the afternoon swim, which is in the Atlantic Ocean rather than Owasco Lake. According to Dr. Godishala, this daily exercise routine is very likely what allowed her to withstand the massive ‘insults’ her body received.
After the word got out of Janet’s miraculous survival from almost-certain death we were flooded with literally thousands of telephone calls, emails, letters, get-well cards and hospital visits (later home visits). We live in two communities, one in Auburn and the other in Florida. Every communication echoed the same theme; “our love and prayers are with you.” I, for one, never underestimate the power of prayer, being convinced that praying has saved me from death in more than one occasion. When I discussed the miraculous life-saving work of TLC Medical Services with Lon Fricano — who directed those who saved Janet’s life — he said, “someone else was on our team that day.”
As this column goes to print Janet is home and doing very well. There will be many weeks of therapy ahead but she is a fighter who left many doctors, nurses, therapists and all who love her as I do, shaking their heads in disbelief of her recovery.
We plan to be in Florida by the end of the year to continue our great life together.