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Sudden cardiac arrest: A survivor's story

Young father expresses heartfelt thanks for life-saving care

Mike Judkins calls himself a “computer geek.” The 44-year-old technical analyst for a local grocery chain enjoys tinkering with technology of all sorts. And now — after experiencing sudden cardiac arrest — he is in awe of the advanced medical technology that helped to heal his heart and preserve brain function.

On Aug. 28, Mike collapsed in his Bristow home. That’s the last thing he remembers until he “woke up” four days later at Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center.

When minutes matter

“It was a Sunday afternoon and my wife, Sonya, wanted to bake a cake,” Mike recalled. “Malia, our 5-year-old daughter, was running around the house, so I took her upstairs to watch TV. I had just finished cutting the grass and I decided to take a shower. A few minutes later, Sonya came upstairs to check on our daughter. When Sonya walked into the bedroom, I dropped to the floor right in front of her.”

Sonya began CPR immediately. She called out to Malia to get her cellphone and dial 911. “The rescue squad is just around the corner from our house and it took only six minutes for the ambulance to get there,” said Mike. “All the while, Sonya was performing CPR. I’m not sure where she learned it — she isn’t a medical professional — but CPR helped to save my life.”

Remarkable heart care

“Mr. Judkins suffered ventricular fibrillation, also known as cardiac arrest,” said Alfred Burris II, MD, the interventional cardiologist at Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Cardiology in Manassas who treated him. “That means his heart began to quiver and then it stopped pumping. Given the excellent relationship and communications between emergency medical services and our facility, the cardiac catheterization team was mobilized while the patient was still being transported.

“Prince William Medical Center has one of the lowest ‘door-to-balloon’ times in Northern Virginia, which is the amount of time between a heart patient’s arrival at the hospital and the time he or she receives coronary intervention,” Dr. Burris said. Prince William Medical Center has reported months with median door-to-balloon times as low as 25 minutes, well below the national aim of within 90 minutes.

Mike was stabilized in the emergency room, placed on a ventilator and then taken to the cardiac catheterization lab. “Heart catheterization revealed normal coronary arteries and profoundly weakened heart muscle,” Dr. Burris said. “The official diagnosis was nonischemic cardiomyopathy. Simply put, the main pumping chamber of the heart is profoundly weakened without evidence of obstructed blood flow.”

To prevent recurrent cardiac arrest, Mike received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. He also benefited from the latest in post-arrest care, including a balloon pump to help support his heart, an oral feeding tube for nutrition and therapeutic hypothermia. “His body temperature was cooled temporarily to improve outcomes as far as brain function is concerned,” Dr. Burris said.

The story continues

Mike doesn’t remember much about the care he received from the cardiovascular team. “When I finally came around, I had no idea why I was in the hospital or what had happened to me,” he said.

Mike was discharged from the hospital 11 days after suffering his sudden cardiac arrest. Currently, he attends cardiac rehabilitation three times a week and he is preparing to return to work.

Prince William Medical Center is a nationally recognized leader in cardiovascular care. In addition to receiving The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Acute Myocardial Infarction and Heart Failure, the hospital has achieved Magnet status from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which recognizes healthcare organizations that provide nursing excellence.

“Without the support of my family and the care I received from Dr. Burris and the team of doctors and nurses at Prince William, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Mike said. “I can’t say enough about how well I was treated and the tremendous support shown to my wife.”

Photos: Sudden cardiac arrest: A survivor's story


Published: 5/16/2017