Not alien to hard work – heart attack, cardiac arrest no match for patient
On May 29, designer Jared Murphy was visiting a home where he had been working on a project when he suddenly wasn’t feeling well. He asked the homeowners if they had any pain reliever, but when they returned with some, they found Jared unresponsive and immediately called 911. Hennepin EMS paramedics arrived, immediately began CPR, and placed him on a cardiac monitor because Jared did not have a pulse and was not breathing.
“I tried to die at least 7 times, but HCMC wouldn’t let me,” he said with a smile while walking on a treadmill at a cardiac rehabilitation appointment 8 weeks after experiencing a “widowmaker” heart attack.
The team in HCMC’s emergency department, including emergency physician Dr. Stephen Smith, stabilized Jared and he was transferred to the cardiac catheterization lab, where a stent was placed to return blood flow to his heart.
“I had a 100 percent blockage in one of my arteries,” the 50-year-old designer and podcaster explained, “and had literally been dead for 45 minutes.”
Dr. Smith explains how Jared had the kind of heart attack that’s often confused with a cardiac arrest:
“Jared’s ECG indicated a complete blockage of his left anterior descending coronary artery – the big artery in front of the heart that supplies oxygen to a large amount of heart muscle,” he said.
When the EKG shows that this artery is occluded, it is often called the “widowmaker.”
“A heart attack is a myocardial infarction when there’s loss of blood flow to the heart muscle, which is commonly confused with the term ‘cardiac arrest’ when the heart itself stops pumping blood. To make it even more confusing, the most common cause of cardiac arrest is a myocardial infarction (‘heart attack’). Jared had both: a heart attack causing a cardiac arrest.”
“Specifically, Jared had an Occlusion Myocardial Infarction; this is the very large kind of heart attack which needs intervention emergently.”
From the time Jared collapsed to the time he was successfully resuscitated with dual sequential defibrillation (see blog post here for details) was approximately 40 minutes; it was an additional 30 minutes until his artery was reopened with the stent. While he was supported with oxygen and other measures, until he woke up from being placed in a coma, his family didn’t know if – or how much – brain damage may have occurred.
After Jared’s breathing tube was removed, it was evident that he did not experience any deficit to his cognition, and he was very motivated towards recovery. Instead of remaining still in bed, he would get up and stretch and move around in his room.
“What else was I going to do, count the ceiling tiles?”
He would even walk from the ICU to other areas of the hospital for specialized care instead of being pushed in a wheelchair. Two weeks after “dying,” he was discharged from HCMC.
Dr. Kevin Buda, a cardiology fellow who cared for him in the Medical Intensive Care Unit, said his recovery was remarkable.
“Jared’s recovery is the pinnacle of what modern critical care can offer. The normal prognosis for a heart attack resulting in a cardiac arrest is dismal, especially when it occurs out of the hospital when timely diagnosis and care are difficult. With high-quality CPR, prompt opening of his blocked heart artery, thoughtful post-arrest care in the medical intensive care unit, and a lot of motivation from Jared to work with rehabilitation, he was able to rapidly return to his normal life.”
Humor and irony seem to keep Jared and his family in good spirits throughout his miraculous recovery. His daughter, Alise, sent him a text and photo from a restaurant where “The Widowmaker” burger was on the menu:
“I’m gonna order your heart attack for dinner,” she joked.
“Hilarious – I love you, Peanut,” he replied.
Jared is now several weeks into cardiac rehabilitation and has already recorded two podcasts – again, feeling good enough to return to work – which from time to time may indeed include assessing “ceiling tiles.”
“Much more interesting to do in an upright position,” he mused. “And returning to the work I love and most importantly, the people I love, has made me so grateful to the care at HCMC.”