Woman clinically dead for 15 min. lives
Published: February 2, 2006 | 3425th good news item since 2003
JULIE Bromage, 57, of Blackmans Bay, is a living miracle following a heart attack which left her clinically dead for up to 15 minutes.
Yesterday, little more than three weeks after collapsing, she was back enjoying the water views from her hillside home and reporting that she felt fine.
Her amazing recovery, virtually free of any side-effects, has surprised and delighted medical experts.
The usual result, even for those patients who survive such a prolonged period without a heartbeat, would be life in a vegetative state.
Her husband, Tony, 72, said the couple owed everything to the Tasmanian Ambulance Service and the medical teams at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
Julie can’t remember anything about the day she collapsed in her dressing room at home. Nor anything about the treatment she received.
“Apart from that and some post-operative pain from having a pacemaker fitted, I feel just fine,” she said.
Her husband can remember every moment.
“I found her just after 6pm on January 9. There was no pulse. Her heart had stopped. I panicked,” he said.
Even now, a week after she returned home from hospital, his voice catches as he revisits the trauma.
He began cardio-pulmonary resuscitation while phoning 000. The operator told him an ambulance was on the way, and to continue his attempts at resuscitation.
“Then he asked me if the front door was locked. It was, so he told me to run like hell and open it, then to run back to continue CPR,” Tony said.
An ambulance and an ambulance staff car arrived in less than six minutes. They were followed by a neighbour, off-duty paramedic Lyle Turnbull, who had seen the ambulances. Then a second ambulance turned up.
First through the door were paramedic Peter Stride and volunteer Neil Ruut. They were joined by supervisor Monica Baker and used drug therapy, CPR and electric shocks to revive their patient.
The team worked on Julie all the way to the Royal, where she was placed on life support and moved to the intensive care unit.
In the next few days, more than 20 doctors and nurses provided round-the-clock treatment and care.
Her body was cooled, then sedated, and a doctor warned Tony that things didn’t look good.
“He said I had to remember that when the heart stopped pumping, blood stopped going to the brain,” he said.
In short, severe brain damage was a possibility.
Dr Andrew Turner, a staff specialist in the Royal’s intensive care unit, said yesterday a key to the good result was the CPR delivered by Tony followed by the ambulance team. It supplied some oxygen to the brain even while the heart was stopped.
A measure of the miracle is that usually one to four electric shocks will start a heart. With Julie it took 11.
The medical team waited until the Wednesday after admission before beginning to bring her out of her coma.
Tony was called into ICU the following day, saw her eyes were open, and said: “Hello, how are you?”
He feared the response would be nothing; a case of that sad line about the lights being on but nobody being at home.
Instead, to his intense joy, his wife of 33 years looked at him and said: “Tony. Why am I here? What happened?”
Even today she has no memory of anything about January 9 and the fortnight which followed. Otherwise, life is good, save for some post-operative pain following the fitting of a pacemaker.
Tony is still overwhelmed by the response and quality of the care his wife received.
“I defy anyone anywhere to match the quality of care available in Tasmania,” he said.
“Where else would two ambulances arrive within six minutes, and where else could one receive the wonderful care provided by the Royal?”
For Dr Andrew Turner and the ICU team, and the ambos led by Peter Stride and his colleagues, it’s what they simply call a good result.
Hard to argue with that.