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Collaboration, medical technology save visitor's life

Cardiac arrest survivor Nancy Olson

Nancy Olson, a 63-year-old artist visiting Bellingham from Priest Lake, Idaho owes her life to new medical technology and the collaboration of the local medical community.

Olson says she wants everyone to know that what Whatcom Medic One paramedics and caregivers at the PeaceHealth St. Joseph Cardiovascular Center did for her was "immeasurably wonderful," and that she cannot fully express her gratitude.

On Sunday, (April 10, 2011) Olson believed she was suffering from food poisoning. But when she also began experiencing chest pain in her motel room, her friend called 9-1-1. When paramedics arrived, Olson had just gone unconscious and they found her heart had stopped beating.

Efforts to revive her included defibrillation and administration of cardiac medications, but despite these measures her heart would not restart. During the resuscitation effort, a new mechanical CPR device being evaluated by Whatcom Medic One was attached to Olson. This piece of equipment, called the LUCAS Chest Compression System, is designed to precisely and effectively compress and expand the chest in an attempt to circulate blood when the heart is unable to do so.

In Olson's case, the device was so effective she began to regain consciousness when the device was operating, a very rare occurrence in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest situations.  When the device was turned off briefly to perform further medical procedures she would become unconscious again.

Given the effectiveness in maintaining Olson's circulation with use of the LUCAS device and advanced airway management, paramedics rapidly transported Olson to the PeaceHealth St. Joseph emergency department with the device still providing automated CPR and keeping her alive.

At PeaceHealth St. Joseph she was taken to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, with the CPR device still in operation, where Dr. William Lombardi cleared a blockage in her left anterior descending coronary artery.

"This was a 'perfect storm' of so many good things coming together for the best outcome, and a great example of how well we do things in this community," Lombardi said.  "It demonstrates how a well-run system, as ours is – from first responders to the cath lab to the ICU – can save lives.  Everything happened the way it should, with a lot of people making a difference, doing the right thing at the right time in the right way. We have a wonderful, high-level EMS system, great technology, and a cath lab crew that can triage quickly and accurately to provide the most successful care."

Today, Olson is alive and well with normal neurologic function, expecting to be discharged home just days after suffering a typically fatal cardiac arrest. She may be released as early as Friday, April 15. Olson has given permission to make her story known in order to educate the community and express her gratitude to everyone involved.

"This outcome is another example of saving lives with the use of cutting edge medical technology and the dynamic paramedic care that Whatcom Medic One is famous for," said Bellingham Fire Chief Bill Boyd, whose department operates Whatcom Medic One. "But this story isn't just about technology, it's about people working together to ensure that anyone in Whatcom County has access to first class emergency care, from the moment we receive a 9-1-1 call, through the hospital emergency department, and until a patient like Nancy Olson goes home -- alive and well."

More information

About the photograph:  Nancy Olson recuperating at PeaceHealth St. Joseph, with Whatcom Medic One responding paramedic Marie Bussard (right), and PeaceHealth St. Joseph intensive care unit nurse Marcia Limbach, RN (left). Photograph by Dr. Marvin Wayne.

Devices used during paramedic response: LUCAS Chest Compression System and ResQPod.

New techniques tested locally help save lives (City of Bellingham, January 2011)


Published: Apr 18, 2011

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