Quick Action by Many, Advanced Therapy Save Man’s Life

October 10, 2012

Bill Van Vianen is tweaking his workout routine just a smidge. At least for now, the 58-year-old from Sterling Heights will be training for 5K runs instead of 10Ks or even marathons. He also will remember to take some identification with him during his training sessions.

The changes are part of doctor’s orders since Bill collapsed on June 10 while running at Dodge Park just blocks from his house. He had no identification or cell phone on him when he arrived at the Henry Ford Macomb Hospital Emergency Department in Clinton Township.

“I have run literally hundreds of miles in that park,” he said. “I still can’t believe it. I thought I was in great shape. I have been running for 30 years. I don’t eat red meat.”

What Bill didn’t know was that he had a blocked coronary artery. On that particular day, the blockage caused Bill’s heart to go into a dangerous arrhythmia. Luckily, a woman walking her dog saw him fall, began administering CPR and called 911.

When Bill arrived at the Henry Ford Macomb Emergency Department, the decision was made to treat him using therapeutic hypothermia. Cardiac arrest patients who meet specific criteria are cooled to between 32 and 34 degrees Celsius (normal is 36.6) as soon as possible, up to 24 hours, after the cardiac arrest. They are slowly warmed back up to normal after 24 hours.

Cooling the body helps preserve heart and especially neurological function by decreasing the metabolic demands on the brain, notes intensivist Prabhat Sinha, DO.

“This method can be effective for patients with poor neurological status, who a witness sees lose consciousness,” Dr. Sinha said. “The hypothermia must be induced within 24 hours. In Mr. Van Vianen’s case, he was unconscious and because the woman on the trail saw him fall, we know when he had the heart attack.”

Once Bill was awake again, a heart catheterization was performed and a stent placed to reopen his artery. Dr. Sinha said the decision to do the catheterization first or perform therapeutic hypothermia first truly depends on the patient. If the heart is not functioning at all, then a catheterization would be done first. But in a case like Bill’s, where the heart rhythm was stabilized, but he was still unconscious, the larger worry is brain function.

Bill was discharged four days later, walking and talking with very few adverse effects. His wife, Roxanne, is amazed by his recovery. She said the nurses and entire Henry Ford Macomb staff were great.

“They saved his life,” she said. “It was very scary and that first day was long, but he made it.”

She is wondering how she will be able to keep him from overdoing it until his doctor says he can run full force again. As for Bill, he said he will begin making a habit of carrying ID with him on his solitary runs.