Ewan went into cardiac arrest in a restaurant and was saved by two nurses from UnityPoint
Sometimes, the stars have to align perfectly for everything to work out.
For Ira’s man, they did it while he was out eating with his girlfriend at Cool Basil restaurant in Altoona on December 9, when he went into cardiac arrest..
Just a few months after his 50th birthday, Tim Wright suffered a disruption to his normal heart rhythm, a symptom of a rare genetic disorder called Brugada syndrome, leaving him in cardiac arrest and his girlfriend Jayda Hollander, 49, pleading for help.
“I tried to shake him on the shoulder, but he wouldn’t respond,” Hollander said. “Then, when I grabbed his head, he kind of fell to the side and his eyes were really wide and he kind of just started to the side.”
Fortunately for Wright and Hollander, two UnityPoint Health employees who work at Iowa Methodist Medical Center were in the right place at the right time.
Wendy Rockey, a nurse and executive director of cardiovascular services at UnityPoint, was sitting in the booth next to Wright and Hollander and offered to help when Jayda shouted, “Can someone please help me?”
After evaluating Wright and ensuring he was not suffocating, Rocky began performing CPR.
Nurse Amber Burke, coordinator of the Blank Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders, was about to leave when she heard the commotion on the other side of the restaurant. I helped Rocky with the compressions until more help arrived.
“When you’re in the middle of CPR, you don’t really notice anything else going on,” Burke said. “My focus was on making sure I was doing what I trained and doing my best to make the presses the way I needed to.”
Five minutes later, after several rounds of CPR, paramedics arrived with an automated external defibrillator.
“He had a heart rhythm before he left the restaurant,” Rocky said.
Wright was taken to the Methodist Emergency Room, where he was treated before being transferred to the cardiovascular unit.
In an interview from his hospital room at Methodist, Wright told the Register that the first thing he remembers after going into cardiac arrest was waking up in the intensive care unit, where he was intubated with a tube down his throat.
“I knew I was in the ICU, but I didn’t know where I was,” Wright said. “I’m intubated… trying to figure out how do I live with this thing? Do I breathe? Is this thing breathing for me, or are we breathing together?”
He remembers going in and out of consciousness after being admitted to the hospital, and clearly remembers the nurse saying: “You’re here with me. Stay here. Stay with me. Stay.”
After going in and out of consciousness, Wright remained.
Over the next week, he began his recovery, struggling to understand what his new normal would look like using a medical device called an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, or ICD.
“I hope a lot of it stays the same,” Wright said. “With the diagnosis and now the defibrillator, I hope it fits into my life, otherwise we’re going to have to make it happen.”
Meeting the nurses who saved his life
Before that night at the restaurant, Rocky and Burke had never met.
They both work at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in different units of the hospital, but had never met until they performed CPR on Wright that Saturday night.
On Wednesday, Rocky had the opportunity to meet Wright, who, despite all the difficulties, had been placed in one of her units.
“I walked in and said, ‘I’m Wendy. I’m one of the managers here,’ and then I said, ‘I’m also the nurse who was in the restaurant.'”
Burke did not get the same opportunity. She had to leave the restaurant before she knew Wright was stable and his heart was beating.
“I didn’t have any closure,” Burke said. “I didn’t know if they were able to take his pulse later. I didn’t know what hospital he was taken to. I didn’t know if he had survived the accident… I didn’t know if what had happened to me was what It happened or not. That was helpful, because at the time he didn’t have a pulse.
After Burke left the restaurant, she set off on a pre-planned trip, but Wright remained in the back of her mind until she returned to work on Friday, about a week after the event.
“I actually left the state, so to be able to come back and see him walking and meet his family was great,” Burke said.
On Friday, the day of Burke’s return, the four, Wright, Hollander, Rocky and Burke, were together for the first time.
“The stars just aligned to be able to have this opportunity,” Burke said. “I didn’t really think I would meet him or even know the outcome or know if he survived.”
Wright was expected to be released on Saturday, a week after suffering a heart condition.
What is Brugada syndrome?
Brugada syndrome (BrS) is a rare, potentially life-threatening cardiovascular condition that increases the risk of arrhythmias that begin in the lower chamber of the heart.
Often, rheumatoid arthritis is not diagnosed until it is too late. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “The most serious complication of Brugada syndrome is sudden death. This often occurs while the person is asleep,” which does not give a diagnosis a chance until treatment can be given.
These are the symptoms of BrS:
- sudden death
“Many cases of Brugada syndrome are associated with a genetic mutation,” says Johns Hopkins Medicine. “Identifying the condition is key to preventing its possible complications. If you have Brugada syndrome, you should discuss the risk implications for your relatives and children with a genetic counselor.”
As for Wright, he remembers feeling warm and dizzy before he suffered a cardiac arrest.
“We were waiting for the scan, and all of a sudden, I started feeling warm and then dizzy,” Wright said. “I just need to sit here for a moment and let this go. I’m not sure what’s going on. This has never happened before.”
From there he suffered a heart attack.
CPR saved Wright’s life
According to Wright and the nurses, CPR was the main thing that saved his life.
But that could have led to an unhappy ending.
“I felt as if we (Rocky and Burke) were the only two people in the restaurant who knew CPR,” Rocky said. “Even if you don’t know what’s going on, if someone falls, CPR is the best thing you can do. There’s no harm in starting CPR.”
Burke remembers being trained in CPR at work, but there wouldn’t always be a nurse there to save the day.
“It’s easy to look at a situation and say, ‘Oh, great! There were nurses who knew how to do CPR!” “But if we weren’t there, there wouldn’t be anyone else in the restaurant providing the same kind of help,” Burke said.
Rocky and Burke ask everyone to consider taking CPR classes.
“What if you are in an area that does not have medical staff?” Burke said. “You don’t have to be a nurse to do what we did. You just need to have those skills.”
You can find CPR classes near you by going to Redcross.org.
Kyle Werner is the Register’s reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.