A long 29 minutes
Doctors told Woodstock resident Jerry Coleman that he had about a 20 percent chance of survival after suffering a heart attack last April. Without a heartbeat for 29 minutes, the situation was bleak.
But using shocks, medication and CPR, responders from Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue were able to revive and stabilize Coleman before he was flown to Winchester Medical Center.
On Sunday, nine months following his heart attack, Coleman met with the responders who saved his life during a reunion at the town government building in Woodstock.
Coleman, 52, made a quick recovery.
“My cardiologist told me I could go back to work … as soon as they released me,” Coleman said.
He decided to have three weeks of therapy at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, exercising for one hour three days a week. After that, during the first week of June, Coleman returned to his job at the Anderson Company of Manassas, where he monitors trucks used on construction job sites across Northern Virginia.
Coleman’s ordeal started when he suffered the heart attack around 8 a.m. April 16. He said doctors had determined the cardiac arrest was caused by a blood clot in his chest.
Coleman said he can’t recall anything from that day, or after 5 p.m. the day before.
“I knew I had headaches from about three days before and … a lot of pain between my shoulder blades,” he said.
Dawn Mantz, an EMT and one of the responders, said that “time, proximity, his wife calling immediately and also having staff at the station” were all critical factors that helped save Coleman’s life.
“He was maybe a half mile from our station,” said Mantz.
Coleman was lying on his bed unconscious and struggling to breathe when responders arrived at his Woodstock home around 8:19 a.m.
The situation had worsened when Coleman’s heart stopped beating between the time the call was made to the time the first responders arrived.
Paramedic Jordan Highland said that in a situation like that, two responders would start CPR “while someone else is starting IVs and medications and one person is working with a monitor.”
Highland, who acted as the “quarterback” of the response effort, added that the person working the monitor decides if they need to provide resuscitating shocks from an automated external defibrillator [AED].
He said responders delivered a total of seven shocks to Coleman before his heart began beating on its own.
“Twenty-nine minutes is a long time,” Highland said. “In most circumstances, if someone goes into cardiac arrest, we usually can revive them within a couple of minutes.”
To help get Coleman’s heart beating, responders made use of a new tool called a Lucas Device, a cordless machine that accurately and efficiently replicates chest compressions involved in CPR.
Mantz noted, “If you can imagine being in the back of an ambulance, going down Bryce Mountain and standing up trying to do compressions … it’s difficult.”
The device was instrumental in reviving Coleman.
“When he got that pulse back, it was like ‘OK, we’re in good shape,'” Mantz said.
After Coleman was stabilized, he was flown to Winchester Memorial Hospital, where he spent the next 16 days. Coleman said he did not regain consciousness until April 27.
Doctors had to insert chest, ventilator and feeding tubes.
Coleman said, “After I started remembering things, they pulled the tubes out of me.”
He recovered quickly and with no brain damage, despite the time he spent without a heartbeat.
For now, Coleman has regular checkups every three months to make sure his heart is fine. He is also taking a blood pressure — or “blood thinner” — medication until April 16.
Coleman said that his heart is functioning great today. “[My doctor] said my heart, after he put the stint in [my chest], was just as regular as any 52-year-old person,” Coleman explained. “And that’s what I am.”
<p id=’reporter_info’>Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or <a href=’mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org’>email@example.com</a></p>