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Fast-Acting Nurses at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Save Patient's Life
09/05/2013

ARLINGTON, Texas — As Robby Love stepped off the treadmill, he didn’t expect to black out during his routine workout at the fitness center at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. He didn’t expect to go into sudden cardiac arrest either. Recovering from successful quadruple bypass surgery five months earlier, Love never imagined nurses would have to perform CPR and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) to save his life either.

Robby Love
Robby Love

But on Aug. 20, the unexpected happened.

“I didn’t feel any pain or shortness of breath — just a little tired. Then, I just blacked out,” said 49-year-old Love. “When I finally came to, I was on the ground and everyone was staring down at me.”

Love doesn’t remember climbing onto the elliptical machine. But Brenda Doughty, R.N., heard a loud and sudden noise outside her office, several feet from where Love fell.

“I ran out and saw Robby, face down, between two elliptical machines,” Doughty said. “I gently rolled him over, and I could hear he was struggling to breath. He was grunting, but not moving sufficient air into his lungs.”

According to the American Heart Association, the kind of strained breathing Doughty quickly identified, called agonal respiration, is usually seen just before a person goes into cardiac arrest. Doughty, Texas Health Arlington Memorial’s cardiac rehabilitation manager, immediately tried to find a pulse, but it was absent.

“I immediately began CPR and asked one of the fitness specialists to get the AED,” she said.

Jane McNelis, the hospital’s oncology nurse navigator, was working downstairs when she heard the emergency call over the intercom.

“When I made it upstairs, I saw Brenda performing CPR, so I jumped in and held his airway open and started using the AED,” McNelis said. Placing the machine’s two pads onto Love’s body, the AED analyzed his condition for McNelis. “A shock was advised and the AED then instructed us to continue CPR, which we did.”

Jane McNelis, Robby Love and Brenda Doughty
Jane McNelis, Robby Love and Brenda Doughty

Clinicians with the emergency medical team quickly connected Love to a monitor and supported his breathing with a manual resuscitation device. The device helped deliver breaths while Doughty continued performing CPR on Love. The defibrillator detected a slow rhythm, and Love soon regained consciousness.

After Love was stabilized, he was taken to the emergency department. Tests revealed two additional blockages near Love’s heart.

“It scared me, because I thought I was doing everything right,” he said.

Before his cardiac episode at the fitness center, Love had lost more than 30 pounds. Prior to his cardiac arrest, Love underwent quadruple bypass surgery during Easter weekend, later completing the hospital’s cardiac rehab program. As a Type 2 diabetic, Love had promised himself he’d continue exercising and maintain a healthy diet.

But according to Doughty, Love’s sudden cardiac arrest was just that — sudden.

“He was definitely doing everything right, but what Robby suffered from was an ‘electrical problem’ that caused an irregular heartbeat.”

To avoid Love possibly going into cardiac arrest a second time, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) was placed.

“An ICD is similar to a pacemaker, but it will shock the heart back to a normal rhythm if an abnormally fast rhythm is detected,” said Dr. Bill Nesbitt, a cardiac electrophysiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Arlington Memorial.

According to Nesbitt, a pacemaker uses electrical pulses to speed up the heart rate, while an ICD delivers shocks to correct abnormally fast heartbeats. “ICDs can also record the heart’s electrical patterns, allowing physicians to determine future treatment, if needed,” he said.

McNelis believes Love’s sudden cardiac arrest can be a learning opportunity.

“It emphasizes the importance of having an AED on site, because early defibrillation can save lives.”

Nesbitt said that during sudden cardiac arrest, ventricular fibrillation may occur.

“The heart beats dangerously fast and the ventricles may flutter, leading to a depletion of blood being delivered to the body.”

According to the American Heart Association, sudden cardiac arrest is the largest cause of natural death in the United States, taking the lives of more than 320,000 Americans every year. Love said he was grateful for McNelis and Doughty. “It all boils down to being at the right place at the right time, with the right people.”

He said the cardiac episode might have ended differently anywhere else. “Brenda told me, ‘I’m sorry for beating you up on the chest, but I wasn’t going to lose you,’ ” said Love. “For me, people like that make all the difference.”

About Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital
Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital is a 369-bed acute-care, full-service medical center serving Arlington and the surrounding communities since 1958. The hospital’s services include comprehensive cardiac care, women’s services, orthopedics, an advanced imaging center and emergency services. Texas Health Arlington Memorial is an affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Arlington.

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