Celebrating the gift of life, at Christmas

Joan Hamm was asleep when she felt an incredible pain in her chest.

She woke up, called 9-1-1 and unlocked her front door.

Emergency personnel found her, when they arrived, and set into motion a series of actions to save the 77-year-old Dade City woman’s life.

Joan Hamm of Dade City, March 2016 patient, with Amanda Martin, Monica Anderson and Wayne Ruppert.
(Photos courtesy of Richard K. Riley)

Armando Lopez Jr., was watching television in his Hernando County home when suddenly he blacked out.

He recalls parts of what happened next: His son administering CPR, his wife calling 9-1-1, and emergency crews taking him to the hospital.

But, he said his memory is spotty because he was in and out of consciousness.

Both Hamm and Lopez were among surviving patients invited to Bayfront Health Dade City’s fourth annual Lifesaver’s Awards banquet.

About 65 people attended the event, which included hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, a catered meal and an awards presentation. Those recognized during the event each received a citation of meritorious performance.

The banquet recognizes the work of emergency personnel, physicians and the Bayfront Health Dade City associates who successfully revived patients whose hearts stopped beating and who were “clinically dead.”

“With Lifesavers, we reunite the patient with their family and everybody who helped take care of them,” said Wayne Ruppert Jr., master of ceremonies for the awards banquet. He is the hospital’s cardiovascular care coordinator. He also received an award during the ceremony.

Hamm was pleased to be there, accompanied by members of her family.

She characterized the banquet as “uplifting and inspiring.

Back row, left to right: Wayne Ruppert, Monica Andersen, Nicholas Jordan-Topp, Fakhreddin Fard, John Kinzie, Raul Cruz and Amanda Martin.
Front row, left to right: Suzanne Green Lopez, Armando D. Lopez III, Armando Lopez Jr. (the patient who was saved) and Nancy M. Lopez.

Hamm added: “I am so happy that somebody thanks these people for what they do.

“So many times, the EMTs never know what happens to the person.

“All of those people were so nice to me. My brothers were here and my stepdaughter. They just couldn’t say enough good things. They said, ‘I’ve never seen people so nice and so concerned, and so helpful as they were, at the hospital here,” Hamm said.

The Dade City woman said she doesn’t’ recall much of what happened to her, but she has a report that provides a minute-by-minute account.

One thing is certain, Hamm said: It never was a sure thing that she’d walk away from the hospital, especially without deficits.

“For several days, they didn’t know which way it was going to go,” Hamm said.

She was in the hospital for about a week and then at a nursing home for a couple of more before returning home.

“I did my physical therapy. I did a lot better than they thought I would do. They just said they never dreamed it would all end up so good,” Hamm said.

Lopez, a retired postal worker, appreciates the outstanding care that he received.

“I just wanted to mention that the care that I received at Bayfront Health Dade City was excellent. It’s a small hospital, but it’s really great.”

“I’m very grateful to the fire rescue and Bayfront Health (Dade City) for saving my life,” Lopez added. “I can’t thank them enough.”

He especially appreciates the additional time he’s been able to spend with his family.

Ruppert, who had spent most of his career working for St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and St. Joseph’s Hospital-North, joined the Bayfront Health Dade City’s staff four years ago.

He was immediately impressed by the skills he saw exhibited by emergency responders and hospital personnel.

“Performance is gauged in the cath lab, by door to balloon,” Ruppert said.

“When a patient comes in the door having a heart attack — how fast do you get them on the cath lab table, get a balloon in their heart, and balloon open the blockage and put a stent in?

“That’s when the heart attack stops.

“So, the stop watch begins when they come in the front door, and it ends when you restore blood flow to the part of the heart where the blockage was blocking blood flow,” he said.

“The statistical survival rate for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is around 7 percent, and that’s according to a recent Heart Association American College of Cardiology Journal paper,” Ruppert said. “BayFront Health Dade City, typically, every year is two to three times that amount.”

Two of the patients who were invited to the banquet had experienced prolonged down times, Ruppert said.

If CPR isn’t started within 4 minutes to 6 minutes, brain cells begin to die, he said, and historically the survival rate for those patients is low.

There is a therapy called Therapeutic Hypothermia that can be used to cool down the patient’s core body temperature to chill the temperature of the brain to preserve brain cells, Ruppert said, and that was used on two patients who had prolonged down times.

Due to that treatment and the good care they received, Ruppert said, “they walked out of the hospital with no deficit. They’re totally normal.”

Hamm was one of those patients.

“I feel very blessed,” she said.

Published December 21, 2016

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