Heart - Christmas Miracle

Mercy Heart Center - Christmas Miracle

ER doctors restore man's heartbeat after nearly an hour

Special thanks to the Canton Repository for publishing this story on Dec. 24, 2011.
Written by Lori Monsewicz, Canton Repository Staff Writer
Photo of Brian Evans and wife by Scott Heckel of Canton Repository
(See original story at cantonrep.com)

Today could be a special day for Brian Evans and his family.

He is expected to be home for the holidays.

That seemed unlikely two weeks ago. The 34-year-old Evans was working at the Whipple Cafe kitchen around 10:30 a.m. Dec. 10, when he suddenly collapsed.

Co-workers quickly called his wife, Liz Evans. Brian was not breathing. He had no heartbeat.

Then came the frantic ambulance ride with Perry Township firefighter-paramedics as they performed CPR and tried to shock his heart into beating.

The fight for his life continued in the Mercy Medical Center’s emergency room and its cardiac catheterization lab.

Now, just days after medical professionals struggled for more than an hour to restart his heart, Evans is hoping to be home for Christmas.

“I’m OK. I’ve got some stitches, and it’ll take some time for them to heal up. But I think I can handle it,” he said Wednesday from his hospital bed. The Canton Township resident said he is hoping to leave the hospital by today.

His progress has stunned doctors and his family.

Dr. Ahmed Sabe, interventional cardiologist and medical director at Mercy Medical Center’s Heart Center, called the life-saving effort “quite a challenge.”

“If you can’t get him back, you usually stop,” Sabe said. “Because you cannot get a patient who has no vital signs, a patient who is not alive, to admit him into the hospital,” he said. “Physically speaking, scientifically, he had no vital signs.”

Liz Evans recalled the day her husband’s heart stopped.

“It was scary, and (doctors) are even shocked he can talk, that he can move,” she said.

“But then, it’s not every day that someone comes back to life after being dead for an hour.”


Liz rushed to be with her husband and ride alongside him in the ambulance as paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. They used a defibrillator, delivering electrical shocks designed to restart the heart.

“Between where he works and arriving at the hospital, they shocked him about eight times, a ninth time in the emergency room,” she said.

Emergency workers detected no heartbeat. Yet they didn’t give up.

In the emergency room, “they usually try for a half-hour, 45 minutes. And if they can’t get him back, that’s it ... end of the story,” Sabe said.

Dr. Michelle Walters, who specializes in emergency medicine, worked on Evans nearly an hour before she was able to detect a heartbeat. She asked for Sabe’s help.


Equipped with the nation’s first cardiac catheterization lab in the emergency department, doctors rushed Evans in. Sabe said they believed they had “a 50-50 chance” of saving his life.

Evans had not suffered a heart attack, but his heart had “totally arrested,” Sabe said, adding that doctors were joined by Dr. Randall J. Harris of the pulmonary-critical care unit. Sabe said Evans had suffered a heart “arrhythmia, an irregularity of the heart.

“We checked (Evans’) coronary artery, and it was wide open. His heart was so weak,” Sabe said.


Evans’ treatment included medications, a ventilator, an aortic balloon pump to support his heart, tandem heart machines to oxygenate his blood, then hypothermia treatment.

“The hypothermia helps preserve the brain and heart. It drops your body temperature to 93 degrees for 24 hours. It preserves the energy in your heart and your brain,” Liz Evans said.

“He was in a medically induced coma for five days. When they took out the balloon pump to let his heart beat on its own, it was beating. On the sixth day, they took him off the ventilation. Then he just woke up.”

Her husband didn’t display any serious medical issues before he collapsed, she said.

“He has asthma, and he’s a little overweight. But he didn’t seem to have medical problems,” she said.

Evans said he smokes less than a pack of cigarettes a day, a habit he has been told to quit. He said heart trouble does run in his family, but usually later in life.

“I’m only 34 and I’m like, ‘This shouldn’t be happening,’ ” he said. “I haven’t been to the doctor in a long time, but I never thought this would ever happen. ... Maybe when I am in my 60s or 70s, but not now.”


Sabe said an arrhythmia is not uncommon. “That’s why (there’s) the initiative to teach CPR and to have defibrillators in factories and other workplaces,” the doctor said.

Fortunately, he said, the hospital has a heart catheterization lab in the emergency room, enabling doctors to perform angioplasty and open arteries quickly.

Sabe credited emergency room and other doctors, as well as the availability of the cath lab, with saving Evans’ life.

“It’s amazing,” said Brian Evans’ mother, Darla Fitzgerald. “His was a sudden cardiac death. The minister in the ER came in the day that this happened. He just stood at the doorway and he said, ‘Wow.’ ... It’s a miracle in progress.”

His wife agreed. Said Liz Evans, “He seriously is a miracle.”