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Surviving Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Category: Patient Stories
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Becky Holmstrom, RN, St. Luke's ICU, was nearing the end of her shift one Sunday night when a patient was rushed to the ER in a coma. Mark Ward, a healthy, active, 36-year-old father of four, had just returned home after his league hockey game when he collapsed on the floor. His wife, Sarah, immediately called 911 and began performing life-saving CPR until the paramedics arrived.

Once Mark was admitted to the ICU, the team began treating him with induced hypothermia, an innovative cooling process that limits the risk of neurological damage after sudden cardiac arrest. Becky had led the effort to implement this protocol at St. Luke's and was the one staff member on duty with actual hands-on experience. Without hesitation, she agreed to stay with Mark for the next eight hours. Wrapped in subzero cooling blankets and with a cold saline solution circulating through his system, Mark's body temperature dropped to 32 degrees Celsius while Becky and Sarah stood watch through the night.

By Tuesday morning, Mark's body had been rewarmed, and he was fully awake and off sedation. A team of specialists diagnosed his condition as ventricular tachycardia with sudden cardiac arrest, an "electrical" heart problem that can happen to anyone at any time, even young, healthy, active men like Mark.

Under the care of Dr. Porur SomasundaramSt. Luke's Cardiology Associates, Mark received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), a small, battery-powered device that detects and corrects cardiac rhythm disease. To maintain a clean bill of health, Mark monitors his device daily, comes in for follow-up appointments every three months, and avoids contact sports. "Enforcing that rule while raising four active kids may be the toughest part of this whole experience!" Mark says.