Richard Monk, 34, was painting a house when he felt ill, climbed down the ladder, sat down, and passed out. His coworker checked on him and found he wasn’t breathing. Luckily he knew CPR and started to compress Richard’s chest. Richard didn’t respond.
The ambulance crew shocked his heart at the scene and several more times as they raced him to Platte Valley Medical Center.
“He was dead when he arrived,” said Candace Harrod, MD, the Emergency Room Physician. “Our doctors, nurses and ER staff shocked his heart multiple times, gave him medications, and inserted a breathing tube. We had his pulse stable for less than five minutes. He never woke up. We agreed with the cardiologist that this was as good as it was going to get. His only chance to survive was for us to rush him to our cardiac catheterization lab where the team could insert a catheter and use X-ray to find the blockage.”
“The page over our PA system let me know that there was a trauma situation in our emergency department,” said Daryl Meyers, Director of Pastoral Care and Community Relations. “His mom and dad were anxious, very fearful. I let them know I was the chaplain. I think that frightened them. They must have thought, ‘Oh no, they called the chaplain. This must be bad.”
“It was bad,” Meyers said. “Very bad.”
“Blood flow was blocked by a large clot in the vein leading to the heart,” said Don Rabor, MD. Dr. Rabor was the cardiologist on duty.
“Now that we knew what had happened,” Rabor said, “we were able to restore the blood flow to the heart. Even so, the heart muscle was damaged.” He and Dr. Qaisar Khan, the interventional cardiologist at Platte Valley, decided to artificially support the heart by inserting an Impella® heart pump to help the heart move blood.
“His vital organs were not getting enough oxygen,” Rabor said. “The longer he was unstable, the greater the likelihood of permanent damage to his kidneys, brain, and lungs increased."
Dr. Khan performed the procedure. “That started his road to a long recovery,” said Dr. Harrod. “Had the people on the scene not started CPR, or the EMTs not given him multiple shocks, there wouldn’t have been enough blood getting to the brain, and he would not have had a meaningful recovery. Everything had to go right for him to walk out of the hospital.”
The staff and Richard’s family were with him constantly for the first seven critical days. “He was in ICU and we pretty much lived there that whole week,” said Michelle Moore, Richard’s sister. “We have a big family, so someone was there day and night. My mom essentially lived at the hospital. At one point they called a Code Blue while he was in the ICU, and started CPR again. When the doctors came to tell us, they started to tear up. It was emotional for them as well.”
"The heart was still pumping,” said Dr. Rabor, “but blood wasn’t moving out of his heart as it should. There was the possibility that the blood would become stagnant and form a clot in the heart.”
“The doctors had other concerns as well,” said Daryl Meyers. “After multiple resuscitations, there was a question of neurological damage. If he were brought back, who would he be?”
Dr. Rabor added, “Our fear always is that, even if we save the heart, if the vital organs and the brain are starved for oxygen for too long, there isn’t going to be a meaningful recovery. So that’s what we concentrated on over the next few days, to see what vital organs might be dam-aged, and we began dialysis to help his kidneys.”
It was ten days before Richard woke up. When he did, he was able to talk.
“When I first visited him in the ICU, after recovery, I was shocked,” Meyers said. “I talked to him like a normal person. I said ‘Richard, you’re a walking miracle.’ He knew that, and so did his parents. I’m sure the staff was impacted spiritually. There was a sense that a miracle had happened, however you define miracle. In addition to the hands of the staff, there was a sense that there was another hand helping.”
“I can’t say enough good things about the staff,” Richard’s sister said. “The ER doctors came and talked to him. The chaplain was amazing. I loved the chaplain. Even the ambulance crew came up to see him. We became very connected to the staff.”
“Richie is good now,” Michelle said. “He gets tired quickly. I had no idea that a heart attack affects so many parts of the body and for so long. The impact will slow him down from what he used to be able to do. I think the support we received definitely made it as easy as it could be. We’re very thankful where he ended up, and how things turned out.”
“I praise God every time I remember this ordeal,” Curtis Monk, Richard’s father, said. “The entire staff showed us an overwhelming kindness.”
“It was a meaningful spiritual experience not only for me, but for Richie and his parents,” Meyers said. “In my prayers, I always thank God for our medical staff, thankful for their skills, but also for wisdom from above to use their skills to help the patient.”
Dr. Rabor sees Richard regularly for follow up.
“After a couple of months we took him off dialysis and removed the heart pump,” Rabor said.
“There remained a bit of memory loss. But the blood clot was gone. His heart grew stronger. It was a miracle he recovered,” Rabor said. “I remember being awake at odd hours,” said Richard of his weeks at Platte Valley. “The nurses probably hated me, but would always respond when I hit the call button. They were very friendly. The physical and mental therapists were patient. Doctors were in and out of my room constantly. Even the kitchen staff was accommodating. I was released eight days later and was very happy to be able to walk when I left. There isn’t a group of people I’d rather trust my life to than the staff of Platte Valley. I owe my life to the dedicated, caring people I interacted with there.”
Left to right: Dr. Harrod, Daryl Meyers, Dr. Rabor, Dr. Khan