publicado em 03/12/2012 às 10h02:00
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John Thomson, considered 'clinically dead', received more than 50 electric shocks in the chest and two stents

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Foto: Northampton General Hospital
Britânico John Thomsom (o primeiro em pé, da esquerda para a direita) com a equipe que trabalhou em seu resgate
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Britânico John Thomsom (o primeiro em pé, da esquerda para a direita) com a equipe que trabalhou em seu resgate

A Northampton man who suffered a heart attack at home earlier in the year received life-saving treatment at the NGH Heart Centre despite being " dead" while he was operated upon.

Against the odds, and despite spending nine days in a drug-induced coma in ITU following the operation, John Thomson has since made a remarkable recovery. He recently met up with the paramedics and some of the NGH staff who worked so successfully together as a team to save him, to thank them for what they had done.

John, 60, of Links View, said: " For me the NHS was spot-on, absolutely marvellous. The paramedic was here in minutes, followed by the ambulance with a van full of kit. Everything was in place at the hospital and it all worked splendidly. I owe my life to the whole team."

Back in the warm weather at the end of May, John had ignored two episodes of chest pains, once after walking quickly and then later when doing some physical work. But on the Tuesday after the bank holiday he had more pains as he sat in bed having a cup of coffee, and he called 999. He said: " The paramedic was here so quickly I was still on the phone talking to the controller about my symptoms."

The first paramedic on the scene, Harjot Singh, said: " I was planning to take him to hospital to get him checked over, so I asked the ambulance crew to attend but by the time they arrived just a few minutes later the ECG had changed so much it showed John was having a heart attack. We managed to get him on to a chair, but halfway down the stairs he suffered a cardiac arrest."

John' s wife Anita said: " I saw John before they took him into the ambulance, and it didn' t look good. He made this awful noise as they brought him down the stairs, like an injured dog yelping. He didn' t respond to me. I thought he' d gone. That was it."

Harjot worked with paramedics Lisa Partridge and Sasha Tinston in the ambulance to perform CPR on John. Harjot said: " John' s eyes were open while we were doing CPR on him - which has never happened before and I remember being in two minds whether to shock him until Sasha shouted at me to do it. Every time we pressed the button he screamed, but we carried on doing it all the way to hospital. Luckily there was a good team there to look after him, and Dr Cox was available in the heart centre."

Cardiology consultant Dr Dominic Cox said: " When I was called about John from A&E and was told that he was in cardiac arrest, my immediate reaction was that he could not be saved. But one of the doctors told me that, remarkably, John was able to respond to commands while being resuscitated, which was a sign that resuscitation had been unbelievably good from the moment he suffered cardiac arrest."

John had been given a number of defibrillating shocks but they only restored heart rhythm for a very brief period or not at all. So he was in ventricular fibrillation, a fatal heart rhythm, but being kept alive by artifical external cardiac massage. He was kept on a LUCAS artificial heart pump and taken to the cath lab in the heart centre, where the problem for Dr Cox and his team was how to perform a cardiac procedure on a patient who had no output from his heart.

Fortunately they were able to get into an artery in John' s leg, and there was enough blood pressure being supported by the LUCAS machine to allow an emergency angioplasty to be carried out, unblocking the vessel that was causing John' s heart attack. Two stents were inserted into a major coronary artery. Halfway through the procedure his heart was shocked to restore him out of ventricular fibrillation to what was still a very sick heart rhythm, and an intraaortic balloon pump was inserted up through the leg artery to support his heart in circulating blood. John was then transferred to ITU where his head was cooled to prevent brain damage by the low cardiac output, and he spent nine days in a medically-induced coma.

Anita said: " When I asked what were John' s chances, Dr Cox couldn' t say. He said at this stage you must just take it hour by hour. We weren' t sure whether he would come out of the coma, or whether his brain would be damaged. His kidneys stopped working properly because of the weak heart output, and filtering them took out the drugs they were putting in. Having to lie still led to a chest infection. How he pulled through it all I don' t really know."

Dr Cox admitted that after the operation his feelings about John were still very pessimistic. " There were as many times I saw him dying rather than surviving, but he gradually made headway and was able to breathe for himself. It' s very unusual to see someone who was dead for 80 minutes or so while being artificially supported and then make a full recovery from it. I' ve seen nothing like this before, and it' s a really remarkable story.

" What made the difference was that he had full CPR from the moment he suffered the heart attack, and the chain of survival was unbroken from the paramedic crew through to A&E, the cath lab and ITU. Everything just worked out perfectly for him and, if just one part of that chain had slipped, I don' t think John would have survived."

Subsequently John has had a further procedure to have a third stent inserted and to check the results of the original emergency operation. Despite some mild damage to his heart his prospects are good, and he hopes to start work again in the new year once he has conquered some muscle pain that he is still experiencing. John said: " From when I was taken out to the ambulance I was really just a passenger. I don' t remember a thing until about ten days later, although I did have some very weird hallucinations in ITU! What I do know is that I was in the right place. There was no weak link in my chain, and it was a fantastic team effort from everybody involved."

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