Patient Beats the Odds

That Richard Kean is alive is nothing short of a miracle. So says his wife, Laura, one of his doctors and a host of medical workers who responded after his wife dialed 9-1-1 on June 21, 2011.

The couple was at home that morning and Richard was sipping coffee on the porch when he came in and sat down. He said his chest felt “weird.”

“I asked him if everything was OK,” recalls Laura. “He said, ‘Oh, it’s gone now.’ But when I started to move away, it was back again. So I told him, ‘You’re going to the doctor!’”

She left the room and was partly dressed when she decided to peek in on him. “I still can’t remember why I came back into the room, but he was in cardiac arrest.”

Laura, a former certified nurse assistant (CNA), leapt into action. She tilted back his chair, ran to unlock the back door, and dialed 9-1-1. Then she started compressions and was working away when a voice answered. “I was so confused, I forgot to put the phone on speaker. I remember the gal telling me I needed to listen, but I was already busy pushing on his chest and praying.”

Paramedics got to their Vacaville home within minutes and took over for Laura. As the cardiac catheterization lab is in Fairfield, the typical procedure is to send patients suffering a heart attack directly to NorthBay Medical Center, but in this case, paramedics didn’t think there was time to spare. Richard was whisked away to VacaValley Hospital, where he went on to have two more cardiac arrests.

After that, he was sent by ambulance to NorthBay, where he went directly to the cath lab.

But when he arrived, he had no blood pressure. He suffered another cardiac arrest just after he arrived. “The doctor told me it didn’t look good,” remembers Laura.

But then, what Laura calls Richard’s miracle happened. Despite compressed arteries and a total lack of blood pressure, Dr. Harry Dassah was able to run a catheterization line through Richard’s veins to place two stents in an artery that was totally blocked.

The team watched as blood flow returned and blood pressure climbed to 40, 50, 60 and 70.

One of the main concerns, of course, was that Richard had been without oxygen too long, but that’s another miracle, says Laura: “He didn’t suffer any brain damage.”

Richard, now 69, doesn’t look like your typical heart attack patient. He’s slender, athletic and strong.
A co-owner of a drywall business in Vacaville, he works hard, says
his wife. But his family has a long history of cardiac issues, so he didn’t take things for granted. In fact, he had just completed lab tests the week before and was planning to get his chest x-rayed prior to his attack.

“His labs came back normal. Nothing could have prepared us for this,” says Laura. “We were blindsided.”

But thanks to her training in the 1980s as a CNA, Laura had more than a passing familiarity with CPR, and when Richard needed her most, she was quick on her feet.

“She did everything right,” said Dr. Dassah. “She called 9-1-1, she acted in time, and she helped save his life.”

In a way, Laura says she was returning the favor, because Richard saved her life three years earlier when she was choking on a piece of food. He performed the Heimlich maneuver and got her breathing again.

“We’re even now,” chuckles Laura. “No more one-upping. We’re even and that’s fine.”

Next Step for Chest Pain Center

Dr. Paul McWhirter

What Richard Kean suffered on June 21, 2011, was a “STEMI”—which stands for ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction, otherwise known as a major heart attack. In recent years, it was protocol to send patients suffering STEMIs out of county for treatment.

“Transferring patients away takes a big bite out of the ‘golden hour,’” says Diana Sullivan, service line director for NorthBay’s Heart & Vascular Center. “The Golden Hour is that first hour of care—the time when, if given clot-busting drugs or other artery-opening treatments, the patient has the greatest chance of survival. Patients sent by ambulance to Sacramento or Walnut Creek have a 45-minute delay in getting treatment. If we can treat them here, we’ll cut the response time dramatically.”

At Wellspring’s deadline, NorthBay was poised to become a STEMI-receiving center, which means that in the future, patients suffering major heart attacks would be brought directly to NorthBay first. “It goes hand-in-hand with our becoming a nationally certified Chest Pain Center for thrombolysis in 2009. We were certified to use drugs to dissolve blood clots. We also started doing primary angioplasty, interventional cardiac procedures, in August 2009, such as placing balloons and stents into blocked heart arteries. The purpose of these procedures is to help re-establish blood flow. In these cases, we’re speeding up the provision of life-saving cardiac care, often saving vital heart muscle and improving survival benefits in high-risk cases,” says Sullivan.

Plans call for the team to support the national public education campaign, Early Heart Attack Care.

And earlier this year, NorthBay joined forces with Dr. Paul McWhirter and a team of physicians to bring 24/7 physician coverage to the cardiac cath lab.

As the evolution of NorthBay’s Chest Pain Center continues, plans call for the team to support the national public education campaign, Early Heart Attack Care. The primary goals are to teach how to recognize the early signs and symptoms of heart attack, the critical importance of calling 9-1-1; and the need for prevention.

“We’re taking our message to the people. We’ll be providing lectures, using posters, ads and we’re happy to visit service clubs to share our message, which is this: “Minutes Matter. Don’t wait more than a few minutes to call 9-1-1.”

Know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Discomfort or pain in the center of the chest.
  • Discomfort in the arm(s), back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

Don’t delay, call 9-1-1.

5 comments on “Patient Beats the Odds

  1. My dad is Richard Kean. To say we are so grateful to Dr. Dassah and the medical staff at North Bay Medical Center is and understatement. It was a team of people who played a role from my stepmom’s quick response and knowledge of CPR, the medics and the medical team at VacaValley Hospital who wasted no time in rushing my dad to the hands of Dr. Dassah and his team at North Bay Hospital. My dad received outstanding care. The nurses in ICU kept us informed and encouraged us. But my dad encouraged me most of all by his words that echoed in my mind. They were words that brought comfort as he layed unconscious those nine days. He taught us not to look at the circumstances and oh they were very grim. But to put our trust in GOD and GOD’s word. "I am the Lord that healeth thee". We know GOD has a purpose and as was told to me, there was and unseen hand in all of this. Too many things that morning were in place even before dad had his heart attack. While nothing can prepare you for this catastrophic event, I can see how GOD had all of the players in place to work his miracle of healing through the gifted hands of all that were responsible for saving his life. We all fought the battle of faith on the 3rd floor of NorthBay Hospital with our dad. Coming together in faith believing that our dad would be healed. And he is getting stronger every day. He is and amazing man. Thank you NorthBay for taking care of him and for being so supportive and sensitive to this family on the third floor which we were known as. GOD bless each of you and your wonderful hospital.

  2. This wonderful article above is about my sweet Uncle Richard Kean And my Aunt Laura! I know why my Uncle is still with us here today…HE IS JUST AN AMAZING, LOVING, GIVING MAN!! He has ALWAYS been a MIRACLE IN MY EYES!!! Thank you for helping my Uncle Richard recover! And thank you for printing this story of them!!

  3. Thanks isn’t enough to my sister-in-law who took action and knew what to do. Thanks to all the doctors who did not give up on my brother. It was God’s mercy and His Grace that my brother will tell you that also brought him through all of this. Thank you to all isn’t enough to tell you the job you did for him. My brother’s faith in God is as firm as a rock. I love you, brother.

  4. My uncle is a strong and wonderful man. His faith is the most important thing to him. I am so glad he had made it and is getting stronger everyday. With the Lord’s hands on him all the way. It’s faith that the Lord left him here to do more work. I love you Uncle Dick and am still praying for you….

  5. I am one of Richard and Laura’s seven children.
    I remember thinking… "How could this be happening to my family? We are good hardworking people. We pay our taxes and we love from the heart. What are we going to do?"
    Then it hits me: FAITH! This is what he, (Richard) is talking about when he speaks about his faith in God. Suddenly the feelings of such helplessness vanished. Turn to God and trust in him.
    So, I want to thank my parents for their teachings, guidance, and their love.
    As a family, we all beat the odds.
    NorthBay, what can I say? They are wonderful beyond words. The medical care was like watching poetry in motion. The support and kindness to my entire family during this difficult time was immeasurable.
    So, I want to thank NorthBay for helping us beat the odds.

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