Nearly 90 percent of cardiac arrests that occur in a non-hospital setting in the United States are fatal. Dave Peshek, of Butte, is grateful to be among the lucky ones to survive such an event.
Peshek doesn’t remember exactly why he called 9-1-1 on November 30, 2021, but something didn’t feel right and while he was on the phone with dispatch, he collapsed. He suffered a cardiac arrest, which means his heart unexpectedly stopped pumping.
“The line went dead, but he had called just in time to get the system activated,” said Alan Mayer, MD, an emergency medicine physician at St. James Healthcare.
The dispatcher notified the Butte-Silver Bow Fire Department and A-1 Ambulance. Once on scene at Peshek’s house. The first responders started CPR and then shocked him three times with an AED (automated external defibrillator) to get his heart beating again.
“(Dave) had coded. He was in cardiac arrest when they got on the scene and when that happens, you’ve got an extremely limited timeframe to get somebody back,” Dr. Mayer said. “If you don’t get CPR started, within a few minutes, you lose oxygen supply to the brain, and even with CPR, you’ve got a very limited time on how long you can shock the heart and get it to come back to a rhythm. The team of first responders did exactly what they needed to do.”
To ensure his heart continued pumping, a mechanical chest compression device was attached to Peshek during his transport to the hospital.
Meanwhile, the emergency medicine team at St. James Healthcare, the largest acute-care hospital in southwest Montana, had been notified of the situation and were ready to jump into action the moment Peshek arrived.
“Our team is trained and certified in advanced cardiovascular life support and critical care,” explained Dr. Mayer. “When a cardiac arrest patient, like Dave, arrives at our emergency department, every second of our response is critical to ensure the best possible outcome.”
Upon arrival at St. James, Peshek had an emergency angioplasty, a procedure used to open blocked coronary arteries caused by coronary artery disease, and spent ten days in the hospital, including three days in the cardiac ICU. Peshek doesn’t recall any of it.
“I’ve never experienced, not only physical, but mental trauma like this event was. It was major,” Peshek shared.
According to Dr. Mayer, the “system” worked exactly as it was supposed to for Peshek.
“It was the very quick action of everybody involved that led to the success of this one,” said Dr. Mayer.
Peshek’s road to recovery wasn’t easy, but he was determined to build up his strength and regain his independent lifestyle. That’s where the St. James Cardiac Rehabilitation Program stepped in.
To help him achieve his goals of improving his health, restoring his strength and reducing his risk of further heart issues, St. James’ cardiac rehabilitation team worked closely with Peshek to develop a plan tailored to his condition and needs, including a mix of monitored exercise, medication management, nutrition counseling and education.
For 12 weeks with three sessions each week, Peshek attended cardiac rehabilitation at St. James.
“(Cardiac rehab) was very instrumental in getting my muscle mass, my muscle tone and my stamina back — which was really important for me to have,” said Peshek.
By October of 2022, Peshek was able to cut, split and stack five cords of wood at his home, south of Butte. He mows the grass, tends to his green house, and works in the house too. Peshek is proud to say that he’s pretty much back to normal, though slowing down in his 75 years of age.
“I recently had an echocardiogram done and the cardiologist said it’s a miracle — there’s no evidence in the heart muscle that I ever had the event that I had,” Peshek recalled.
As he reflects on his months spent in and out of St. James Healthcare, Peshek feels immense gratitude.
“I’m very humbled by it all and very thankful for it all," said Peshek. “St. James saved my life, and I cannot say enough good about this place. From the ER to the cardiologists to cardiac rehab, I owe them my life.”
For more information about the cardiovascular services available at St. James Healthcare in Butte, visit sjh-mt.org/heart.