Making Miracles Happen
On a sunny June afternoon last year, Sergeant Fred Arnold suffered a heart attack while behind the wheel of his Caldwell Police Department cruiser. The attack was so severe that his heart stopped beating. Thanks to the care he received at HackensackUMC Mountainside and his good fortune, he made a remarkable recovery and is back at work.
Fred’s chain of good fortune began with the accident itself. He lost consciousness while operating a marked patrol car. The vehicle crossed over into the opposite lane, jumped the curb and struck a telephone pole. A witness called 9-1-1 immediately and members from the Caldwell and West Caldwell Police Departments arrived within minutes. Upon arrival, Fred had no pulse and was unresponsive. Officers immediately began life saving measures through CPR and the use of a defibrillator. They kept Fred, their fellow officer, alive until paramedics and members of the West Essex First Aid Squad arrived moments later. As they raced to HackensackUMC Mountainside, they worked tirelessly to restart his heart, though they could not establish a sustained rhythm.
Despite this fortunate set of circumstances, Fred’s condition was still dire when he arrived at HackensackUMC Mountainside. “He had no pulse and his heart was in a potentially lethal abnormal rhythm,” says Dr. Domenic Mariano, the cardiologist at the Emergency Department. One of the major arteries serving Fred’s heart was completely blocked, a condition so severe it is called the “widow maker.”
Once Dr. Mariano performed an EKG, which confirmed Fred’s diagnosis, he called his colleague, Dr. James Amato Jr., an interventional cardiologist, and mobilized the team at the hospital’s Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. Dr. Amato installed two stents to open up the artery and a pump to support the heart.
But Fred was not out of trouble yet. His physicians were concerned that his brain might have suffered from lack of oxygen when his heart stopped. Fortunately, the Intensive Care Unit at HackensackUMC Mountainside is equipped with a cooling device that his care team used to lower Fred’s body temperature, minimizing further brain damage. “This relatively new procedure can make a big difference in a patient’s recovery,” Dr. Amato says.
Seven days later, Fred awoke with no memory of the accident. “I was dazed at first, but the staff in the ICU really helped me get my bearings,” he says. “They treated me like a rock star.” Fred is a big guy—a weight lifter, he’s 6’4” and 275 pounds of muscle—and one of the gestures he especially appreciates was the larger bed the staff arranged for him so he would be more comfortable. He also praises the way the staff supported his wife, Julie. “She could not say enough about how everyone was wonderful to her,” he says.
Fred spent three weeks in the hospital and a week in inpatient rehabilitation, followed by weeks of physical, cardiac, occupational, speech and cognitive therapy. “Slowly but surely, he came around,” Amato says. By November 1, he was back on duty. The 17-year veteran now has the luxury of looking forward to his 18th year. “After everything I went through, I feel phenomenal.” he says. “Dr. Mariano, Dr. Amato and the entire team at HackensackUMC Mountainside gave me the greatest gift anyone can give . . . Life. My family has a saying, each day you see the sun rise, you must say to yourself, 'Life is good today.'”
As Dr. Amato points out, Fred’s ability to return to his job, his family and his community reflects HackensackUMC Mountainside’s long-standing commitment to providing outstanding care to its patients. The hospital is continually renewing its investment in medical technology to ensure that lifesaving interventions are available when its patients need them.
Fred’s good fortune also reflects the dedication and professionalism of the healthcare team. “After every procedure, we scrutinize our performance to make sure the whole team—the Emergency Department, cardiology, interventional cardiology, and the ICU—are working together as efficiently and quickly as possible,” Dr. Amato says. “Sergeant Arnold’s outcome is a good example of why we put so much time and effort into finding ways to deliver the best possible care in the least amount of time. It’s one reason he’s alive.”