Race Against Time for Heart Attack Patient
In May 2016, Chris Frost was near the end of the Run with the Alewives 10K race in Nobleboro, Maine. A fit 68-year-old retired school administrator, Frost was feeling good as he entered the final stretch. Looking ahead, he saw a runner wearing yellow shorts and picked up his pace to pass. It was Frost’s last memory until he awoke in the critical care unit of Maine Medical Center (MMC) in Portland several days later.
At that same time, registered nurse Jennifer Carlson was driving home after a 12-hour shift at MMC, when she noticed a group of runners ahead of her and slowed down. Just then, Frost took a faltering step and fell down.
For a second she hesitated, unclear whether Frost had just tripped or was in serious difficulty. “Please get up,” Carlson remembered thinking. When he didn’t, she pulled over, assessed him, and began to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Somebody in a truck pulled alongside and asked if she needed help. “Dial 911,” she shouted.
Frost was a victim of sudden cardiac arrest, a condition caused by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia. Starved of oxygen, the brain begins to die in minutes. Often affecting otherwise healthy people, sudden cardiac arrest strikes more than 390,000 people outside of a hospital each year. Less than
6 percent survive; of that group, many will live with significant loss of function because their brain was without oxygen too long.
RN Trained in CPR
Chris was lucky. He not only survived, he survived without lasting negative effects. His first piece of luck was that he lost consciousness a few feet from an RN trained and experienced in CPR. His second piece of luck was that an AED (automated external defibrillator), a device designed to shock a heart that is beating irregularly back into a normal rhythm, was less than a mile away. According to the American Heart Association, immediate CPR and use of an AED more than double a victim’s chance of survival.
His third piece of good fortune was having a coordinated system of care in place that has drastically reduced the number of people in Maine dying from heart attacks.
As an experienced nurse, Carlson understood the importance of AEDs. When Lincoln County Sheriff Sgt. Alan Shea arrived, the first question Carlson asked was if he had an AED. Shea didn’t, but he knew one was sitting in a cruiser less than a mile away.
Within a minute the AED arrived and Carlson activated it to restore Frost’s heart to a productive rhythm; soon he was breathing on his own. When the ambulance arrived minutes later, the trained emergency responders jumped into action and called the LincolnHealth Miles Emergency Department in Damariscotta to say they were on their way.
Coordinated, Lifesaving Care
The LincolnHealth team made Frost’s initial diagnosis, and transferred him to MMC, where he received lifesaving AMI-PERFUSE treatment. Frost lived thanks to the excellent, coordinated care among the first responders, care teams and surgeons who worked together to treat his heart attack.
Frost soon returned to the care of his LincolnHealth Miles doctor, and has made a full recovery. In fact, in May 2017 Chris celebrated the anniversary of his patient experience by running the Alewives 10k race again — and finished strong.
Frost said, “I am just tremendously appreciative of all the resources that came together to make it possible for me to be here.”