After 80 minutes of CPR, patient comes to life

During a recent visit, Steven Froemel receives a hug from
one of his care team members at University of Minnesota
Dec. 5, 2013
Steven Froemel is happy to be alive. Because he was, basically, dead.

Froemel spent more than an hour in full cardiac arrest at University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis on Aug. 11.

His care team kept him alive with an automatic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) device while trying to open the only major vessel to his heart.

Just when care team members thought they had done everything they could to save him, Froemel reached up, grabbed the tube to the device and tried to pull it out. His heart had restarted.

70 to 80 minutes without a heartbeat
“Your heart was in arrest for about I would say 70 minutes or 80 minutes without a heartbeat, and we couldn’t shock you out of it,” Uma Valeti, MD, Froemel’s cardiologist, was quoted in a Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) story, explaining it to Froemel.

Froemel recently visited the cardiac team that saved his life at the medical center. Dr. Valeti showed him the device that kept him alive while he repaired a vessel to his heart that was closing.
Steven Froemel, center, meets the care team that saved
his life, including his cardiologist, Uma Valeti, MD, right.

A device to keep his blood circulating
This CPR device, the LUCAS 2 Chest Compression System, keeps a patient’s blood circulating, delivering much-needed oxygen to his organs. The LUCAS device became available in the Twin Cities about four years ago. Increasingly, the technology is being used to save lives.

The 62-year-old can hardly believe he survived. “Oh, I think that they could have just called it,” Froemel was quoted in the MPR story. “I think about that. How could you not?”

Dr. Valeti recalls having some doubts about whether he was doing the right thing in trying to save Froemel, given the unclear outcome for his brain and heart after prolonged cardiac arrest.

He says there was a lot of tension in the cardiac catheterization laboratory that day as they scrambled to work through a variety of techniques and technology that needed to be deployed to try to save Froemel’s life.

“Once we hit the 60-minute mark, we had some very experienced members who felt that the patient was dead, and that it would be futile to continue working on him,” Dr. Valeti says.

“I can’t put my finger on why we kept going, but the team thought there was a chance. If there was even a 1 percent chance, we were going to keep going.”

Steven Froemel with his cardiologist, Uma Valeti, MD.

A team effort
“More than 10 different teams came together to save him that day, and kept improvising as events unfolded. There was no single person who saved Froemel’s life—there were dozens, from the cath lab, to the cardiac surgery team to the anesthesia team. So many people working together. It makes me very proud to work at the medical center,” says Dr. Valeti.

He says that though getting Froemel out of the cath lab alive was a major accomplishment, what happened after that was just as important.

Forum Kamdar, MD, one of the senior cardiovascular fellows—along with the coronary structural intervention team—worked day and night to keep Froemel alive in the Intensive Care Unit so he could be discharged without post-arrest complications. The teamwork succeeded, and Froemel is doing well.

The reunion of Froemel and his care team was an emotional one. His wife, Lorrie, was in tears as Dr. Valeti recounted the story.
“I can’t thank you enough for saving his life—for not stopping when others thought it wasn’t worth continuing,” says Lorrie. She wasn't the only one with tears in her eyes as the hugging started.

“No one in the room expected him to make it,” says Corrine Kodelka, a cardiovascular technician on Froemel’s care team. “It was nothing less than a miracle.”

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