Many Hands Form Chain of Survival

June 08, 2011

by Linda Friedel | Reprinted courtesy of KC Nursing News

Elizabeth KupchinPhysicians, nurses and an EMS team set eyes on a former patient for the first time in 12 months at a reception in honor of National EMS Week, May 15-21 at Menorah Medical Center.

“I’m very pleased,” said Terri Walton, RN, cardiology, Menorah Medical Center. “I’m especially pleased to see how great she looks.”

Elizabeth Kupchin, Overland Park, suffered a heart attack at work and might not be alive today had it not been for quick-thinking co-workers who called 911, then performed CPR on her while waiting for an EMS crew to arrive.

“EMS is a chain of survival,” said Eric Gourley, division chief with Johnson County Med-Act. “It has many different pieces.”

Gourley said patients have excellent outcomes today because of the skills of dispatchers, paramedics and hospital support teams, but none of that would occur without the first phone call.

“The most important person is your friend and your loved one,” he said. “If we don’t get that call, nothing works. (It is) the importance of people calling 911 when they perceive a medical emergency.”

Jason Kelley, Overland Park Fire Department, met Kupchin for the first time since he worked to save her life. Surprised and delighted at her full recovery, Kelley said it’s patients like Kupchin who remind him why he does what he does.

“We have an opportunity to actually make a difference,” Kelley said. “We didn’t expect the outcome we did. We found she was still alive and doing well. For us, that is a gift to us to know that it makes a difference.”

Kupchin said she remembers nothing about the day of her heart attack, but she is thankful for the many professionals who kept her alive. She said she is especially thankful she has fully recovered.

“It really hasn’t changed my life,” she said. “That’s what’s important. It’s because of the actions of my co-workers and hospital crew. It’s amazing, so thank you.”

Kupchin said she knows without the service of the first responders, she would not be alive today.

“I realize the Code ICE saved my brain, but they got me here to make that possible,” she said.

Dan Scharf, cardiologist at Midwest Cardiology, said the emergency team provided cardiac shocks, oxygen and intubated Kupchin, whose heart stopped eight times on the way to the hospital. They transported her to Menorah, where a cardiac team prepared Code ICE protocols.

“We cool the patient down by chilling the entire system,” he said. “We do this because we have the most chance of restoring brain function.”

Diana Poorman, RN, Menorah interim director of cardiology, said the cardiac team used the arctic circle system, chilling Kupchin internally with fluids, then with external devices to lower the patient’s body temperature for 24 to 48 hours.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” she said. “Something so simple can have such good results.”

Poorman said Kupchin, 46 at the time of her heart attack, was unusually young to experience cardiac problems. Poorman said the best part of her work is seeing cardiac patients fully recover.

“We have great outcomes for our patients,” she said.

Poorman recommends calling 911 if you or your loved ones experience chest pains or any discomfort in the chest. Other signs are dizziness, sweating and back pain. She said without the local emergency medical services, hospitals would be un able to save the lives they do.

“We work very much as a team,” she said.

Photo by Linda Friedel/Nursing News Photo

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