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New Directions - It Takes a Village to Save a Life

New Directions Winter 2013

It Takes a Village to Save a Life

Date: November 1, 2013


Thomas Goldbaum, MD and Michelle DiVito, MD with Nenad Ivezic
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Suburban Hospital cardiologist Thomas Goldbaum, MD, and Sibley Memorial Hospital Emergency Department physician Michelle DiVito, MD, were among a team of people, including bystanders and clinicians, who helped save the life of Nenad Ivezic when he collaps

Grateful Patient Gets a Second Chance

Sometimes it takes a village to save a life. Nenad Ivezic knows that all too well. The 51-year-old Bethesda resident and researcher in the Engineering Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was running along the Capital Crescent Trail in Chevy Chase on a picture-perfect spring afternoon when he collapsed suddenly from a cardiac arrest.

Fortunately, Sibley Memorial Hospital Emergency Department physician Michelle DiVito, M.D., was at nearby City Bikes. (Sibley and Suburban Hospital are both members of Johns Hopkins Medicine.)

“The next thing you know,” says Dr. DiVito, “someone came rushing into the store and asked if anyone knew CPR.”

“When I arrived on the scene, there were seven or eight bystanders surrounding Mr. Ivezic, but none of them felt comfortable attempting resuscitation,” she explains. “In fact, because of the way he had fallen, they were all afraid even to touch him.”

Within moments, Dr. DiVito had recruited almost the entire crowd to help. Several of them assisted her with carefully rolling Ivezic onto his back in case he had suffered a spinal injury. One woman crouched down to help immobilize his neck and head. Another lifted his jaw to keep his airway open. A man dialed recent numbers on the runner’s cell phone to gather more information. Yet another dashed to retrieve medical equipment in Dr. DiVito’s car.

Ivezic showed no signs of life and had no pulse. According to Dr. DiVito, he was clinically dead, but she and her team of bystanders were able to restart his heart. An ambulance whisked Ivezic to Suburban Hospital, where interventional cardiologist Thomas Goldbaum, M.D., was standing by with Emergency Department (ED), Cath Lab and ICU teams. A “Code Heart” had been called, which activates a team of doctors, nurses and technicians trained to work on heart attack patients.

“Suburban was one of the first hospitals to start a Code Heart program 17 years ago,” says Dr. Goldbaum, “and now it’s the standard of care for community-based hospitals.” Ivezic was rushed from the ED to the Cardiac Cath Lab, where Dr. Goldbaum inserted a stent to open the blockage and restore blood flow.

“Our goal is to reopen the blocked arteries within 90 minutes of the patient arriving at the hospital,” says Dr. Goldbaum, who recently joined the Johns Hopkins Community Physicians (JHCP) Heart Care practice in Chevy Chase. “With a fully integrated team approach, the process works smoothly.” Ivezic was unconscious for four days. While sedated in the ICU, he underwent induced hypothermia, an advanced technology cooling process used to lessen or prevent further neurological damage caused by oxygen loss due to cardiac arrest.

“This intravascular approach cools the body from the inside, which slows down body functions so the organs don’t need as much oxygen,” explains Dr. Goldbaum.

To mitigate the chances of Ivezic experiencing another cardiac arrest, electrophysiologist Helen Barold, M.D., implanted a defibrillator.

“This is why Suburban is so great,” says Dr. Barold. “We’re providing lifesaving technology to these patients so that people like Mr. Ivezic can safely go back to run on that trail. He’s lucky to have survived a heart attack. He’s lucky there was someone there to save him. It’s kind of a miracle.”

Following a short stay at a rehab hospital, Ivezic returned home to continue his road to recovery through Suburban Hospital’s Cardiac Rehab Program.

“This is where we teach patients how to exercise safely, eat a heart-healthy diet and manage stress,” says Jeanmarie Gallagher, Suburban Hospital’s manager of cardiac rehabilitation. “The exercise is conducted in a medically supervised and structured setting, with each exercise program individually designed by our exercise physiologists and cardiac nurses to meet an individual’s particular needs and abilities. In addition, one-on-one counseling with a dietitian helps them develop and follow a heart-healthy diet.”

For 12 weeks, Ivezic went twice a week for an hour each day to regain his strength and energy. By the time he was finished, he had worked up to running a mile on the treadmill.

“They helped me feel so much more confident about going back to a normal life,” says Ivezic about Gallagher and her team. “Not only do they do their jobs extremely well, but also everything they do is very patient-oriented.”

As a result of his rehab, Ivezic now walks about four miles outside almost every day. When he’s not outside, he’ll run a couple of miles on the treadmill twice a week. He’s even taken up Iyengar yoga on Dr. Goldbaum’s recommendation, to improve not only his physical health but also his psychological well-being.

By the end of July, Dr. Goldbaum had cleared Ivezic to be back at work full-time.

“Everything really fell into place,” says Ivezic about his recovery, from his revival on the trail by Dr. DiVito and a team of strangers and the life-saving care he received from Dr. Goldbaum and Dr. Barold, to the encouraging coaching from the cardiac rehab team.

Sometimes it really does take a village to save a life!

To Learn More | For more information about Suburban’s Cardiac Rehab Program, visit CardiacRehab or call 301-896-2096.

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