God woke Scherrie Stanley from a deep sleep in the early morning hours of Aug. 21. There’s no other way to explain it.
God woke Scherrie Stanley from a deep sleep in the early morning hours of Aug. 21.
There’s no other way to explain it.
Scherrie said something was troubling her and turned over in bed, grasping the biceps of her husband, Dave, who moments later rolled off the bed and onto the floor, face down.
Getting down beside him, she was horrified to see that he wasn’t breathing and that his face was discolored. She quickly called 911 and a dispatcher at Lee’s Summit Police Department answered.
Keeping as level-headed as she could, Scherrie performed CPR on her husband until paramedics from the Sni Valley Fire Protection District arrived. It was a tense moment, one in which Scherrie knew was a critical crossroad in their lives.
“If it wasn’t for the dispatcher,” she said, “I don’t think Dave would have lived. She coached me through the whole thing. She was very tough on me, too, but she had to be.”
Dave had suffered cardiac arrest, or more specifically in his case, sudden death syndrome. It defied any reasonable explanation for many reasons.
“Doctors have no idea what caused it,” David, 58, said from St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs. “I have no idea what caused it.”
A postman for the city of Oak Grove for 27 years, Dave was the picture of health leading up to the attack. He ate well and exercised. He weight trained. He didn’t smoke. He generally kept a close eye on everything regarding his health.
But on Aug. 21, something went wrong.
While Dave appeared like the picture of health, various biological conditions came together and formed cardiomyopathy, or the deterioration of the myocardium, the actual heart muscle. The term “cardiomyopathy” can refer to any disease affecting the heart, but it’s typically reserved for significant myocardial disease leading to heart failure.
Dave’s experience is not new, but a method whereby Dave’s heart and other internal organs were spared from massive damage is. At St. Mary’s Medical Center, where David was rushed by EMTs that night, he received what is internally called the “code ice” procedure – known by its medical name as therapeutic hypothermia.
Wrapped up in medical equipment that pumped cold water around his body, while chilled intravenous saline solution was administered into his veins, Dave remained that way for 35 hours. Each hour the temperature was raised by 1 degree.
Family and friends watched patiently for any positive sign.
Not everyone is a candidate for the procedure, which has to be started in a six-hour window from the time of the attack. Those who suffer heart attacks, for instance, suffer because of blockage and the blockage needs to be removed immediately. The best candidates for the procedure are those who have had cardiac arrest or abnormal heartbeats.
By cooling the skin (the body’s largest organ), blood flow is slowed, and so is damage to essential organs, including the brain.
More and more hospitals are using the procedure.
Dr. Daniel H. Dunker, M.D., a cardiologist with the Carondelet Heart Institute, said the procedure appears to work by eliminating peripheral damage to organs and the brain.
“The first time we used it was a number of years ago,” Dunker said. “It’s very effective.”
Paul Lininger, the EMS chief with the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District, said CJC was the first EMS department in the area to get the technology. That was in September 2009.
Lininger said EMS personnel use the procedure only during cases of cardiac arrest.
“When we get a pulse back, if he or she doesn’t sit up and show awareness, we proceed with it,” Lininger said.
In a one-month period during the summer, CJC administered three code ice emergencies. In one case, the man, in his early 30s, left the hospital that night.
When Dave woke, his first word was “hello.”
“I remember seeing her face,” Dave said of his wife. “Everything else, I don’t remember.”
Short-term memory loss is one of his afflictions. He now wears a pacemaker and defibrillator. For the remainder of his life, Dave will not be able to raise his elbows above shoulder level.
It’s a shock and will take time to adjust, he said.
“To go from being very active and athletic, it’s hard,” his wife said.
But it could have been worse.
Dave credits God above all else for sparing his life, and giving him a second chance. And prayers from family and friends – literally hundreds of them.
And he credits his wife, whose fast-acting CPR saved his life.
She squeezes his hand.
“I never thought he was going to die,” she said.