COLUMBIA, Mo. — For Allen Wilson of Glenwood, Mo., July 30, 2010, was a day he planned to spend with his wife, Judy, who was about to undergo surgery at University Hospital to remove a benign brain tumor. However their roles on that day changed quickly and without warning.
Wilson had just left his wife and went to the surgery waiting area on University Hospital’s third floor. Suddenly he suffered a heart attack and collapsed.
“I don’t remember a thing; my mind just went blank,” said Wilson. “I didn’t have any symptoms before this, and up until then, I’d never even spent a night in a hospital.”
Pam Rowden, R.N., a nurse liaison from the patient information desk outside the surgery waiting area, immediately sprang into action by starting cardiopulmonary resuscitation and calling a Code Blue.
Within seconds Joe Johnson, R.N., a member of University Hospital’s Tiger Team, a rapid response emergency medical team, was at Wilson’s side assisting Rowden and others to revive him. Team members administered CPR on Wilson for more than 30 minutes until he finally regained a pulse.
“Having a rapid response team like we have here at University Hospital made Mr. Wilson’s survival possible,” said Johnson. “The initial CPR within the first four to six minutes helped move the blood and kept the brain oxygenated. My role was to achieve intravenous access so we could administer advanced cardiac life support medications, which helped revive him.”
Meanwhile, Judy Wilson was unconscious from the anesthesia administered before her surgery. Before her surgery began, the neurosurgical team and anesthesiologist revived her to tell her the grim news about her husband.
“All this was happening so quickly,” said Judy. “You get yourself ready for something like this surgery – resign yourself to the fact that you must have it – and then everything changes. I didn’t know if he was going to be all right and I thought, ‘how could this be happening?’”
Allen Wilson was eventually stabilized and transported to the cardiac intensive care unit, where he spent the first two days in an induced coma to prevent damage to his brain. A team of cardiologists and a cardiothoracic surgeon began the process of diagnosing Wilson’s condition and formulating a plan to treat him.
“Mr. Wilson underwent a cardiac catheterization, and we found blockages in almost every major artery around his heart,” said Raja Gopaldas, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at University Hospital. “So at that time I became involved in his care because he needed bypass surgery, although at this point it wasn’t feasible to do the procedure.”
Greg Flaker, M.D., a cardiologist and director of the electrophysiology laboratory at University Hospital, implanted a pacemaker and defibrillator into Wilson to regulate his heart until the bypass surgery.
Allen Wilson was finally released from University Hospital about a month later and began cardiac and physical rehabilitation. Judy Wilson had successful surgery in September to remove a benign tumor. By November, Gopaldas decided Wilson was ready for the triple bypass surgery.
“The surgery was successful, and Mr. Wilson was able to make a recovery,” said Gopaldas. “He’s active, and he’s walking, and we’re very pleased with the progress he has made. In retrospect, it really is a miracle that this unfortunate experience happened in the hospital rather than somewhere else because he probably would not have made it otherwise. Because it happened here at University Hospital, we were able to get to him in seconds, which not only saved his brain function but the heart muscle, also. And the multidisciplinary team that we have made all the difference in the quality of Mr. Wilson’s recovery. This is basically a second life for him.”
Although life is not the same for the Wilsons, they are very grateful to be home in Glenwood and back to their lives.
“I had a lot of support from friends and family throughout this ordeal,” said Wilson. “And the care I received at University Hospital was very good. I thought I was really lucky that if I had to have something like this, I had it at the hospital. We have a small farm, and a day or two earlier I was out repairing fences, and had I had it way back there, I probably wouldn’t have made it. ”
“The University Hospital staff and Dr. Gopaldas were just great,” said Judy. “Dr. Gopaldas came in every morning to check on Allen, during the day and then just about every night before he went home, he’d stop by to see how he was doing and to talk with us. That is dedication. It’s amazing!”