By Pam Witt-Hillen, Flight Nurse
When working through the tough stuff, I remember my fourth-grade parochial school teacher saying, “God provides the wind, but you must raise the sails.” So it is in healthcare, too, where some miracles also require a little earthly intervention.
We are reminded daily that it takes a coordinated effort by many people to save one life. Especially in sudden cardiac arrest, it becomes an “all hands on deck” situation for the resuscitation and chain of survival for our patient. What is the chain of survival? It is an American Heart Association metaphor that uses the links in a chain to describe the actions needed to save a victim’s life. Many people doing the right thing at the right time can positively change the outcome.
Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OCHA) is the leading cause of death worldwide. In the United States, only 8 percent of victims survive to go back home with their families. Bystander CPR significantly improves patient outcomes. Well-trained emergency medical dispatchers can help elevate rates of bystander CPR by providing “just in time” CPR instructions to 9-1-1 callers.
This is exactly what happened in the case of a young mother, Sue Rogne, who suffered cardiac arrest at her home on February 21, 2013. With her husband at work and both sons already in bed, Sue laid down with her 7-year-old daughter Emily. “We said our prayers and I turned over and fell asleep,” said Sue. “Shortly after I fell asleep, Emily said I started making noises like coughing and choking. Emily started shouting, ‘Mom! Mom!’ Jacob, my 18-year-old son, came into the room and sent Emily to wake up Adam, our 23-year-old son. Adam dialed 911…”
The word “brave” is not big enough to describe the actions of Sue’s children. Adam and Jacob lifted Sue from the bed and placed her on the floor. With the cordless phone on speaker, Jacob started CPR as guided by a strange voice on the other end of the line.
Manitowoc County dispatcher Katie Brull was instrumental in helping Jacob and his siblings save their mother’s life. A veteran of the department for 10 years, Katie used her training and experience to quickly assess the situation and determine Sue was not conscious or breathing. Using the EMD (Emergency Medical Dispatcher) program, Katie skillfully instructed Jacob on how to perform CPR on his mother. Because of her confidence and skill as a dispatcher, the caller was guided and supported through six minutes of CPR until Debbie Reis, a neighbor and Newton first responder, arrived and took over.
Sue was moved to the living room floor from the bedroom. Newton first responders arrived with their AED. Valders Fire and Rescue Ambulance paramedics arrived and provided advanced life support. Sue’s own cousin and Valders Fire Rescue paramedic Mark Busse inserted a tube into her trachea and provided a definitive airway to ensure adequate oxygenation and ventilation. Sue said, “Extensive resuscitation efforts were performed on me for a good 45 minutes along with being shocked three times.” Sue was flown by ThedaStar to Theda Clark’s emergency department and later was admitted to the cardiac care unit.
Sue went home from the hospital neurologically intact with an implanted automatic internal cardiac defibrillator! Mission or miracle accomplished! Whichever you prefer…wish granted! A family is eternally indebted to all those who helped save Sue. And we applaud our dispatchers like Katie for thinking outside the box on any given workday. A miracle like Sue’s validates what we all do for a living.