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How Fast Action and Advanced Cardiac Care Saved Bill’s Life

When Bill Lockmer suffered a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest, fast-acting friends jumped into action. Their efforts were the first in a life-saving “chain of survival” continued by paramedics on the scene, then the emergency services team at UPMC Passavant–McCandless. Ultimately, Bill underwent open heart surgery by one of the hospital’s expert cardiac surgeons, David West, MD.


A few days after Bill’s heart attack, David West, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon and director of cardiac surgery at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Passavant, performed an open heart procedure known as a coronary artery bypass graft on him.
A few days after Bill’s heart attack, David West, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon and director of cardiac surgery at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Passavant, performed an open heart procedure known as a coronary artery bypass graft on him.

Bill, 69, was playing pickleball with friends when he felt tightness in his chest. After taking a break, he was waiting for his turn at a third game when he started to feel lightheaded.

“I remember thinking, ‘What the heck is going on?’” says Bill, who lives in Gibsonia. “Then I blacked out. The next thing I knew, I woke up and people were on top of me.”



Dr. West and surgery resident Dongning Zhang, MD, inside the operating room at UPMC Passavant–McCandless.
Dr. West and surgery resident Dongning Zhang, MD, inside the operating room at UPMC Passavant–McCandless.

Those people were Bill’s friends — including a retired police officer with CPR training — who jumped into action when he collapsed. One called 911 while the other four took turns doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Someone from the community clubhouse brought out an automated external defibrillator, or AED, that they used to shock his heart and get it pumping again. By the time paramedics arrived, he was conscious and breathing.


“It was a perfect scenario,” says Bill, whose wife is a retired UPMC nurse. “Without them helping me, I would have died. Without CPR and the AED, I wouldn’t be here today.”


RESTARTING A HEART


According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States each year. Nearly 90% are fatal. But if performed immediately, CPR can double or triple the chance of survival.


“Bill survived because people were there to help him,” says Dr. West, a cardiothoracic surgeon and director of cardiac surgery at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Passavant. “Every second counts. The longer you go without CPR, the less chance of recovery. In this case, CPR protected Bill while they were getting the AED. The AED reversed everything.”

CPR kept blood and oxygen flowing to Bill’s organs while the AED restarted his heart, explains Dr. West, who later performed Bill’s open heart surgery. “It was definitely life-saving,” he says.


A CHAIN OF SURVIVAL


Betsy Tedesco, DNP, RN, CEN, clinical director of emergency services at UPMC Passavant, says the quick action by Bill’s friends activated what the AHA calls a “chain of survival.” It’s a series of interventions made during a cardiac arrest that starts with early recognition of the crisis, activation of an emergency response, and CPR until help arrives.


Bill at his home in Gibsonia following his procedure.
Bill at his home in Gibsonia following his procedure.

“It’s great to have early intervention when an event like that happens,” she says. “It really gets everything started early and everyone is prepared. There’s less wasted time and a better opportunity for the patient to have a good outcome.”


That chain continued when paramedics took over at the scene and immediately began communicating with the nearby UPMC Passavant Emergency Department (ED). That included sending Bill’s electrocardiogram, or EKG, reports from the ambulance directly to the ED team, which allowed them to prepare for his arrival and alert the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab staff.


Within an hour of his arrival, Bill underwent a diagnostic cardiac catheterization to evaluate his heart. The procedure showed severe blockages in two of the three main arteries to his heart. The blockages had caused a heart attack, which led to sudden cardiac arrest.


“They told me I needed double bypass surgery,” says Bill. “I said, ‘Go ahead — whatever it takes to fix my heart.’”



UPMC Passavant–McCandless Emergency Department
When Bill Lockmer suffered a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest, fast-acting friends jumped into action. Their efforts were the first in a life-saving “chain of survival” continued by paramedics on the scene, then the emergency services team at UPMC Passavant–McCandless.

Bill was first moved to UPMC Passavant’s cardiac intensive care unit so they could monitor him while doing extensive testing to further examine his heart function and identify other issues, including damage from the heart attack. A few days later, Dr. West performed an open heart procedure known as a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG). Using an artery taken from Bill’s rib cage and a vein from his leg, Dr. West rerouted blood flow around the blockages to restore blood flow.


While Dr. West performed the life-saving surgery, he gives credit to the bystanders who jumped into action that day. “Bill was very fortunate to receive that immediate care,” he says. “If more people take time to learn CPR and become comfortable using an AED, more lives will be saved.”


ON THE MEND


“I’m so glad they took me to UPMC Passavant. I was in good hands there,” says Bill. “I’m grateful for the wonderful care I received. Everyone there was top-notch, and Dr. West was excellent.”


Bill went home six days after his surgery — 10 days after his near-fatal heart attack. Four weeks later, he began cardiac rehabilitation at UPMC Passavant–Cranberry. He was put on a heart monitor and had his blood pressure checked while exercising.


“It’s important after a cardiac event like this to get people back to their activities,” says Dr. West. “Cardiac rehab helps to gradually build stamina and strengthen your heart muscle with constant monitoring by professionals.”


“I was happy to do the rehab. I wanted to get stronger,” says Bill. “It gave me confidence knowing they were monitoring my heart during rehab to make sure it was working properly.”

Bill plans to continue exercising at his community clubhouse after rehab ends. And he looks forward to resuming his active lifestyle — including playing golf, bowling, and yes, pickleball — later this summer and fall.


“I feel very lucky. I’m feeling good and getting stronger every day,” says Bill.


Learn more about advanced cardiac services close to home at UPMC.com/NorthHVI.


Bill, 69, was playing pickleball with friends when he felt tightness in his chest. After taking a break, he was waiting for his turn at a third game when he started to feel lightheaded.

“I remember thinking, ‘What the heck is going on?’” says Bill, who lives in Gibsonia. “Then I blacked out. The next thing I knew, I woke up and people were on top of me.”


Those people were Bill’s friends — including a retired police officer with CPR training — who jumped into action when he collapsed. One called 911 while the other four took turns doing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Someone from the community clubhouse brought out an automated external defibrillator, or AED, that they used to shock his heart and get it pumping again. By the time paramedics arrived, he was conscious and breathing.


“It was a perfect scenario,” says Bill, whose wife is a retired UPMC nurse. “Without them helping me, I would have died. Without CPR and the AED, I wouldn’t be here today.”


RESTARTING A HEART


David West, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon and director of cardiac surgery at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Passavant, performs cardiac surgery in an operating room at the hospital’s McCandless campus.
David West, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon and director of cardiac surgery at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Passavant, performs cardiac surgery in an operating room at the hospital’s McCandless campus.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States each year. Nearly 90% are fatal. But if performed immediately, CPR can double or triple the chance of survival.


“Bill survived because people were there to help him,” says Dr. West, a cardiothoracic surgeon and director of cardiac surgery at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute at UPMC Passavant. “Every second counts. The longer you go without CPR, the less chance of recovery. In this case, CPR protected Bill while they were getting the AED. The AED reversed everything.”


CPR kept blood and oxygen flowing to Bill’s organs while the AED restarted his heart, explains Dr. West, who later performed Bill’s open heart surgery. “It was definitely life-saving,” he says.


A CHAIN OF SURVIVAL


Betsy Tedesco, DNP, RN, CEN, clinical director of emergency services at UPMC Passavant, says the quick action by Bill’s friends activated what the AHA calls a “chain of survival.” It’s a series of interventions made during a cardiac arrest that starts with early recognition of the crisis, activation of an emergency response, and CPR until help arrives.


“It’s great to have early intervention when an event like that happens,” she says. “It really gets everything started early and everyone is prepared. There’s less wasted time and a better opportunity for the patient to have a good outcome.”


That chain continued when paramedics took over at the scene and immediately began communicating with the nearby UPMC Passavant Emergency Department (ED). That included sending Bill’s electrocardiogram, or EKG, reports from the ambulance directly to the ED team, which allowed them to prepare for his arrival and alert the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab staff.


Within an hour of his arrival, Bill underwent a diagnostic cardiac catheterization to evaluate his heart. The procedure showed severe blockages in two of the three main arteries to his heart. The blockages had caused a heart attack, which led to sudden cardiac arrest.


“They told me I needed double bypass surgery,” says Bill. “I said, ‘Go ahead — whatever it takes to fix my heart.’”


Bill was first moved to UPMC Passavant’s cardiac intensive care unit so they could monitor him while doing extensive testing to further examine his heart function and identify other issues, including damage from the heart attack. A few days later, Dr. West performed an open heart procedure known as a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG). Using an artery taken from Bill’s rib cage and a vein from his leg, Dr. West rerouted blood flow around the blockages to restore blood flow.


While Dr. West performed the life-saving surgery, he gives credit to the bystanders who jumped into action that day. “Bill was very fortunate to receive that immediate care,” he says. “If more people take time to learn CPR and become comfortable using an AED, more lives will be saved.”


ON THE MEND


When he’s finished with cardiac rehab, Bill looks forward to getting back to playing pickleball.
When he’s finished with cardiac rehab, Bill looks forward to getting back to playing pickleball.

“I’m so glad they took me to UPMC Passavant. I was in good hands there,” says Bill. “I’m grateful for the wonderful care I received. Everyone there was top-notch, and Dr. West was excellent.”


Bill went home six days after his surgery — 10 days after his near-fatal heart attack. Four weeks later, he began cardiac rehabilitation at UPMC Passavant–Cranberry. He was put on a heart monitor and had his blood pressure checked while exercising.


“It’s important after a cardiac event like this to get people back to their activities,” says Dr. West. “Cardiac rehab helps to gradually build stamina and strengthen your heart muscle with constant monitoring by professionals.”


“I was happy to do the rehab. I wanted to get stronger,” says Bill. “It gave me confidence knowing they were monitoring my heart during rehab to make sure it was working properly.”


Bill plans to continue exercising at his community clubhouse after rehab ends. And he looks forward to resuming his active lifestyle — including playing golf, bowling, and yes, pickleball — later this summer and fall.


“I feel very lucky. I’m feeling good and getting stronger every day,” says Bill.


Learn more about advanced cardiac services close to home at UPMC.com/NorthHVI.


Nationally Recognized


UPMC Passavant has earned a distinguished three-star rating from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons for its patient care and outcomes in isolated coronary artery bypass grafting procedures. The three-star rating denotes the highest category of quality, placing the hospital among the elite for heart bypass surgery in the United States and Canada.


CPR: Why It Matters


CPR is an emergency procedure performed when someone’s heart stops pumping blood — a condition called cardiac arrest. Death occurs in minutes if the person is not treated.


Dr. Tedesco, a certified emergency nurse and former CPR instructor, says people are often afraid they will hurt the person or do something wrong.


“When someone’s heart is stopped, you can’t hurt them by doing chest compressions — you can only help,” she says. “Doing nothing at all is doing it wrong.”


About nine in 10 people will die if they experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital. But if performed immediately, CPR can improve those odds — doubling or tripling the chance of survival.


The American Heart Association now recommends “hands-only” CPR, says Tedesco. “Putting your hands to the chest and giving compressions is a life-saving measure,” she says.


Chest compressions keep blood circulating to the brain and other vital organs until help arrives. CPR combined with an AED provides the best chance at saving a life. An AED shocks the heart, restoring the electrical rhythm so it can beat on its own.


HOW TO PERFORM CPR


  • Call 911 or ask someone else to call. Put the phone on speaker so you can follow directions.

  • Ask for an AED.

  • Push hard and fast in the center of the chest (100-120 beats per minute, which is comparable to the tempo of the song “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees).

  • Continue CPR until an AED or help arrives.

Never stop compressions for more than 10 seconds.


Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack


WHAT IS A HEART ATTACK?


A heart attack is often described as a “plumbing problem.” It occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked, preventing oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. That part of the heart begins to die if blood flow is not restored quickly.


If a heart attack is suspected, time is critical. Get to a hospital as quickly as possible. Don’t wait and don’t take time to drive yourself. Call 911 immediately for prompt emergency care.


Common Symptoms of a Heart Attack


• Back, neck, and/or jaw pain

• Chest discomfort

• Cold sweat

• Discomfort in the upper body

• Lightheadedness

• Nausea

• Pain in one or both arms

• Shortness of breath

• Stomach pain


WHAT IS CARDIAC ARREST?


Cardiac arrest is often described as an “electrical problem.” It occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating. When the heart’s pumping action is disrupted, it cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs, kidneys, and other organs.


Bystanders, friends, and family members should act fast if they suspect someone is suffering from cardiac arrest.


Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest


• No pulse

• Not breathing

• Sudden collapse

• Unresponsive


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