Save Date: 5/2000
Activity: After swimming
One morning in May of 2000, Henry collapsed in full cardiac arrest in the shower. His condition, rounded to the nearest significant state, was dead. One of the other swimmers saw him go down and ran out of the locker room and shouted for help. Someone called an ambulance. Henry was lying on the tile floor, not breathing. One man was feeling for a pulse in the femoral artery, in the upper thigh. Another man was leaning over the upper body feeling for a carotid pulse in the neck. He asked me to find one, and I couldn't. Here I have to tell you that I am a physician. So were the other people kneeling over Henry, and a fourth friend soon arrived. The relevance of this is full disclosure. Our being doctors had a lot less to do with what happened than you might think. So we did CPR. After a while, his color began to get dusky, his lips purplish, the area around his eyes mottled. Blowing hard into Henry's mouth tended to force his chin down, pinching off the airway. We realized we had to pay more attention to the neck. We tipped Henry's head back and pushed his chin up. His color picked up after that. We never could get a pulse. We switched off doing compressions. The ambulance arrived 21 minutes after the collapse. In a series of maneuvers that seemed to take place in a state of extreme space-time dilation, the paramedics went to work. They put in an endotracheal tube (first try). They put the defibrillator patches on the chest. They turned on the machine. The machine showed that he was in "ventricular fibrillation" the initial rhythm of a cardiac arrest and the only one you can be successfully shocked out of. It's hard to describe how unlikely that was. Henry got his first shock at 27 minutes. Altogether, he got three. When he was wheeled out of the swim club, he had a pulse. Today he has no memory of the two days before, and the two days after he died. Other than that, however, he appears to be just fine. Amazing stuff happens. So don't be surprised if sometime in your life something amazing happens to you. My friend Henry is lucky. But I have to tell you, he isn't the only one.