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February 2007 Issue

University Hospital patient Paul Johnson (center) reunites with the rapid response team that saved his life.
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Team's Rapid Response Saves Patient's Life

By Amanda Harper
Published February 2007

When Paul Johnson arrived before dawn at University Hospital for a routine screening exam, he could never have predicted that he'd instead end up in the cardiac catheterization lab, just minutes away from death.

Johnson, 68, had experienced some unexplained bladder bleeding, so his urologist scheduled a routine exploratory procedure to identify the source of the problem.

But Johnson never made it past the registration desk. Instead, he had a sudden heart attack. 

The quick thinking and smart decisions of an early-morning team of hospital clerks, technicians, nurses and doctors changed what could have been an ill-fated morning into a life-saving experience for Johnson.

When Johnson arrived at the registration desk, admissions representative Helen Mathis overheard him complaining of tightness in his chest and called the same-day surgery team to alert them of a possible problem.

"That call was the first step in a series of decisions that saved Paul's life," recalls Bruce Bracken, MD, the urologist scheduled to perform Johnson's exploratory surgery.
Nurse Lindsay Mussburger also jumped to action, instructing Mathis to alert the nearby critical care nurses in the cardiac catheterization lab of a possible emergency. Less than 60 seconds after that call, a team of nurses and technicians were on the scene to whisk Johnson away to the cardiac catheterization recovery area for evaluation.
It was clear: Johnson was experiencing an anterior myocardial infarction, otherwise known as "the widow maker." The team had to act quickly if they were going to save his life.
After conferring with cardiac interventionalist Saeb Khoury, MD, the team immediately took Johnson to the cardiac catheterization lab, not the emergency room-the second life-saving decision of the morning.

Johnson's angiogram showed a complete blockage in his left anterior descending coronary artery. His heart was not receiving enough oxygenated blood and his body was rapidly shutting down.

Khoury placed a cardiac-assist balloon pump in Johnson's aorta. He then placed a supportive stent in the vessel to clear the blockage and optimize blood flow.

Less than 30 minutes later, Johnson was resting safely in the coronary care unit. As he says: "I dodged a bullet that day and I give all praise to God and University Hospital."
Johnson recently returned to University Hospital's cardiac catheterization lab to thank the team that saved his life. He says they gave him his life back, and that was the best present he has ever received.

"I just love those people," he says. "I felt like the president of the United States-that's how well they treated me."

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