He's No April Fool

He's No April Fool

Bradford Summers, Orlando, FL – 49 at time of event (2008)

Bradford Summers Brad Summers is a highly trained emergency flight nurse. It is not uncommon for him to emergently transport cardiac and trauma patients to hospitals designed to provide the highest level of care. He knows all about cardiac emergencies (Code Stemi’s), and knows the telltale signs.

It was April 1st, and Brad was at the gym exercising, when he realized he was in trouble. “I experienced sudden onset of left-sided chest pain, radiating up into the neck and jaw, and down the left arm, with left arm numbness.”

He immediately knew he was having a heart attack. He also knew he needed a heart cath* within the hour, or he would die. Unfortunately, he felt the usual EMT response would take too long to get him there. So, by himself, he drove to the ER. He considered driving down the interstate to one of the two tertiary hospitals, but the pain and symptoms made it clear he had only minutes to live.

When he arrived at the local community ER, he explained his situation in clinical terms, and told them that he was a flight nurse. Not that he needed to elaborate; one look at his condition and they all knew he was in dire straits.

He had a blockage in a coronary artery, caused by a plaque rupture, just like Tim Russert. “My understanding is that I walked into the ER in cardiogenic shock.” Brad said. Once in the exam room, Brad suffered the first of six cardiac arrests. “I just remember falling asleep.” Consequently, he has no memory of the rest of his ordeal. He has managed to put the pieces together and tells a remarkable story, as if it wasn’t already unique!

“They coded* me three times in the ER. My family and friends arrived after the first arrest. While the doctor was briefing them [in the waiting room] she was called back for [my] second arrest.” The third arrest prompted the doctor to bring the family members into the room and explained that Brad was in a critical condition. Arrangements were made to emergently transfer him to the tertiary care hospital. The helicopter was called, and the flight team found themselves transporting a colleague—a rescue that had all the hallmarks of a poor outcome.

The flight time was only five minutes and yet Brad arrested twice in the helicopter. “The flight team was devoted to keeping me alive and giving me the one chance that would save me.” Once in the ICU, he arrested for a sixth time. Emergently, he was taken to the cardiac cath lab. The cath revealed a 100% occlusion of his LAD. In addition, he received thrombectomy retrieval for the clot that had formed. However, with his occlusion corrected, he was left with an ejection fraction of less than 25%. He also received a balloon-pump to restore cardiac output (blood flow) without increasing the strain on his heart. A ventilator, balloon-pump and multiple medications to maintain his blood pressure painted a picture of a poor outcome.

For the second time his family was advised that Brad was in real danger. In fact, some of the physicians began considering a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. An EEG, test of his brain waves, revealed he had had insufficient oxygen to the brain and could be severely neurologically damaged, despite the use of a ResQpod circulatory enhancer, and induced hypothermia.

To everyone’s surprise, Brad was released home twelve days later. However, the hospital corporation that saved his life would also be the source of additional stress. While recuperating, his employment was taken away after only eight months in his new role. The religious hospital corporation was not required to provide him with COBRA. He and his emergency department team had just received recognition in “Advance for Nurses.” The issue dated “April 2008”, a great accomplishment during a challenging time. Fortunately, four months after his heart attack, he went back to work at the children’s hospital he had worked at for years prior to joining the religious hospital corporation. Brad found himself facing what many Americans have faced, the inability to be insured due to a heart condition and the fact that he received a cardiac stent that would reduce his chances of another occurrence.

In total, Brad experienced six cardiac arrests and was shocked sixteen times before he received a cardiac cure, and still he survived. He returned to work four months after that desperate day, with no impairments and a perfectly functioning heart. If only his health benefits were in such good shape. 

-Jeremy Whitehead
* code is a term used to call hospital staff to an emergency. (i.e. code blue for immediate resuscitation/cardiac arrest)
** catheterization laboratory, a special room with advanced digital imaging equipment to diagnose and treat coronary artery disease, with real time monitoring of the heart.

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