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Patient Story – Jim Abbott

Normally, Jim Abbott would have been leading his Newark Middle School football players through conditioning on July 1, 2015, but he gave them the afternoon off so they could enjoy a long weekend.  Then Jim decided to go home and complete some chores to prepare for the Fourth of July holiday.  A former Army combat engineer, the patriotic holiday is one of his favorite times of the year, and he was looking forward to fireworks and other activities.  However, an unexpected cardiac event completely changed those plans.

“I had worked all day at my job as a mason at Defense Supply Center Columbus.  When I arrived home, no one else was there.  I let my three dogs out and began mowing the lawn.  I had most of it done and was starting on the front yard – that’s when it happened.  I apparently passed out and did not wake up again until six days later,” he said.

From information that Jim has been able to piece together, he now knows that his dogs surrounded him after he slumped to the ground, and the next-door neighbor’s dog began barking wildly.  Inside the house next door, 13-year-old Riley Jarrett checked to see what was alarming her dog and saw Jim lying on the ground.  She quickly alerted her father, Jason, that something was wrong with their neighbor.  While Riley called 911 to summon the emergency medical squad (EMS), Jason began CPR on Jim.  Another neighbor noticed the commotion and rushed over to assist Jason.  

“I learned CPR many years ago when I was coaching junior high football,” Jason explained.  “I never had a reason to perform it before, and I am glad that I could remember how to do it when needed.  I know I was doing CPR for just a few minutes, but it seemed like forever.  Time stops when you’re in that moment, and someone is dying in front of you.”

The Newark EMS arrived in less than six minutes after the 911 call.  The paramedics found that Jim had resumed breathing on his own, but his heart began to beat erratically, and his breathing stopped again.  The medics used their automated external defibrillator (AED) to deliver three shocks to bring Jim’s heart beat back into synchronization, and Jim’s breathing resumed.  The medics loaded him into the ambulance and drove immediately to Licking Memorial Hospital (LMH), already transmitting Jim’s heart rhythm and other vital signs to the Hospital via a 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) system.  

By the time that Jim, still unconscious, was guided through LMH’s Emergency Department doors, his heart blockage already had been diagnosed, and the Catheterization Lab team was ready to perform a life-saving procedure.  Three of Jim’s coronary arteries were 100 percent blocked, and a fourth one was 50 percent blocked.  Interventional Cardiologist Hassan Rajjoub, M.D., inserted an intra-aortic balloon pump in a minimally invasive procedure to assist in the blood flow to the heart.

Jim’s wife, Vickie, arrived at LMH, and Dr. Rajjoub explained everything that had happened.  Dr. Rajjoub told Vickie that Jim was stabilized and needed to be transported to Columbus for open heart surgery.  A MedFlight helicopter landed outside the Emergency Department, and Jim was flown to Riverside Methodist Hospital.

At Riverside, Jim remained under a medically induced coma for several days.  He recalled, “When I woke up, I looked around and saw the monitor beside my bed.  The date on it read ‘July 6.’  My first thought was ‘Darn, I missed the Fourth of July!’  Then I looked at my wife and asked, ‘What happened, and where am I?’” 

On July 10, Jim underwent quadruple bypass surgery at Riverside.  The surgery was successful, and he was discharged to go home on July 14.  Five weeks later, he was able to return to light duty at work and was cleared to begin cardiac rehabilitation at LMH.

LMH’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program allows patients who have experienced a cardiac event to exercise at their own pace while under constant heart monitoring.  Trained staff members are present to track the readings for signs of cardiac stress.

“Cardiac Rehab is great, first of all, because of the great staff,” Jim said.  “They encourage you to work hard, but you don’t know you’re working hard because they make it fun.  I felt more confident about exercising while I was hooked up to the EKG, and the staff was nearby.  They would not let something bad happen to me.  I felt so much better after going through the program.”

Jim has made important lifestyle changes since his sudden cardiac arrest.  “I watch my diet and walk two miles every other day.  I also gave up smoking.  They threw away my cigarettes in the Cath Lab, and I haven’t had one since,” he said.

By the end of November, Jim had celebrated his 53rd birthday, graduated from Cardiac Rehabilitation, and started a new season of refereeing high school basketball.  He feels fortunate that many individuals were in the right place at the right time with the skills to keep him alive.  “CPR made all the difference for me – I would not be alive without it.  In fact, my boss at work made everyone in my department become CPR certified.  Even I am CPR certified now,” Jim said.  “Also, I am so grateful that Dr. Rajjoub and the Cath Lab team at LMH had such advanced knowledge and skills.  I undoubtedly would not have lived long enough to make it to Columbus if I had not been taken to LMH first.”

According to the American Heart Association, 90 percent of sudden cardiac arrests that occur outside of a hospital setting result in death.  In an effort to improve this grim mortality rate, Licking Memorial Health Systems (LMHS) has constructed a network of life-saving measures throughout the community. 

In 2007, the Health Systems invested more than $300,000 to provide Licking County’s EMS vehicles with 12-lead EKG systems and cardiac monitoring devices that transmit recordings directly to LMH’s Emergency Department.  LMHS spent $50,000 to update the equipment in 2009, and more than $600,000 for a more extensive upgrade in 2014.  In 2008, LMHS donated approximately $155,000 for AED equipment and training for law enforcement departments and schools.  That same year, LMHS added free EKG testing to the pre-participation sports screening program to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac deaths among the county’s high school and middle school students during strenuous school activities.

Captain Brandon Metzger, EMS Officer for the Newark Division of Fire, said that these measures are helping to protect residents on a daily basis.  “LMHS’ donations absolutely have saved lives in our community,” Captain Metzger stated.  “We are using the 12-lead EKG systems and cardiac monitoring devices many times every day.  These devices are the standard of care, but not all EMS departments in Ohio are able to purchase them.  We are extremely fortunate that LMHS enabled us to obtain them.”

LMHS consistently surpasses the American Heart Association (AHA) standards for care of patients who have suffered a cardiac event.  In 2015, the AHA awarded LMH the Mission: Lifeline Receiving Center Gold Level Recognition Award for exceptional care of heart attack patients.  In addition, LMH received the Platinum Performance Achievement Award through the American College of Cardiology – National Cardiovascular Data Registry for sustaining performance measure scores of 90 percent or more in the treatment of heart attack patients.

| Posted On : 12/30/2015 1:48:41 PM