The story I’m about to tell you is true and not exaggerated. It was 7:15 a.m., and I had just walked out of my operatory after injecting for a crown prep on No. 3. My patient care coordinator came running, saying, “Dr. Marzban, there is a man collapsed outside. Our hygienist thinks he is having a heart attack, and we need your help.”
I told my team to grab our automated external defibrillator (AED), oxygen tank and emergency bag. Outside, I saw a military man hovering over an older man who was turning purple. Our hygienist let me know she was on the phone with emergency medical services (EMS) already, and our patient care coordinator was right behind me with all the equipment. The military man (I never did get his name) briefed me about what he witnessed from his car. He watched the man clip a curb and pull into our parking lot, stopping only after plowing right into the street light. The military guy was able to pull out the man from his truck and had just started to assess his status when I arrived.
As I was running up to this scene, I distinctly remembered something that my Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support instructor said at one of my recertification classes: “You can tell when a person is dying because that person truly looks like they are dying.” In that moment, I completely understood what he meant by that. The man was struggling for air, his eyes were rolled back, and he was cyanotic and diaphoretic. As we attached the AED leads, he stops breathing and was pulseless. We started doing compressions and administering rescue breaths until the AED assessed his rhythm and instructed us to administer shock, so we did. The man gasped and stopped breathing again; he had no pulse. We continued compressions and started to hear EMS sirens. We shocked the man again, and he began breathing! There was a pulse! We became surround by EMS responders, who took over.
I quickly briefed the EMS responders with the facts I knew, and then told them I had a patient who I needed to take care of inside. Believe it or not, I went back into my office, took a breath and started my procedure.
I share this story with you not just because it is extraordinary, but also to remind us all how important it is to have a well-trained team. Each year, I conduct a review of emergency protocols with my team. My assistants are always on top of making sure our equipment is at the ready in case of an emergency, our medicaments are not expired and that everyone knows which equipment to grab and where it is located.
Although I asked for our emergency equipment that morning, I really didn’t have to ask for anything, as my team was already getting it. The protocol was executed exactly how we practiced it. One member of my team stayed with our patient to let him know what was going on, another was talking with EMS on the phone and the other two were assisting me in getting the equipment out and ready for the next step. We all were nervous and scared on the inside, but we functioned beautifully as a team and truly saved this man’s life. I am always proud of the women who stand with me as my team, but this just goes beyond words.
Originally published in The Daily Grind