Monday, April 27, 2009

Heart Attack Victim Survives the Unsurvivable

Luck, Skill and Piedmont Hospital’s New Technology Save Peachtree City Man

Tom Dix, 50, had just returned from an afternoon walk with his wife, Dana, when he went into cardiac arrest at their Peachtree City home. Two hours later, he was in the cardiac catheterization lab at Piedmont Hospital being treated with a CardiacAssist TandemHeart. His wife’s nursing background, the skills of emergency responders, Piedmont Fayette Hospital, Piedmont Heart Institute Physicians, the Fuqua Heart Center of Atlanta at Piedmont Hospital and more than a little luck saved his life.

At 4 p.m. on January 13, 2009, Dana Dix, a registered nurse, began performing CPR on her husband until the Peachtree City emergency responders arrived. After arresting in route to Piedmont Fayette Hospital, Dix was stabilized and flown via LifeFlight to Piedmont Hospital, where Victor Corrigan, M.D., opened Dix’s blocked artery with a stent in the cath lab. But Dix remained in cardiac shock. By chance, interventional cardiologist Vivek Rajagopal, M.D., who was scheduled to be in the lab to treat another patient, was on hand to propose the use of the TandemHeart, giving Dix’s left ventricle heart chamber a chance to rest and recover.

The unusual circumstances—the continuum of care that began with CPR, rapid onset of cardiac shock and the availability of the TandemHeart, which Dr. Rajagopal introduced at Piedmont in February 2008—all aligned perfectly to make Dix’s survival possible.

“It was just chance that I happened to be there to suggest using the TandemHeart. But without all of those particulars coming together as they did, all indications are that Mr. Dix would not have survived,” said Dr. Rajagopal, who joined Piedmont Heart Institute Physicians last year after practicing at the Cleveland Clinic. He estimates that the TandemHeart increases survival for patients in Dix’s condition from well below 50 percent to more than 70 percent.

Tom Dix is well aware of just how lucky he is and, thinking of his son and two stepchildren, finds it difficult to talk about the experience without becoming emotional. “I’m inordinately blessed to have my wife who immediately knew how to take care of me and a physician as skilled and extraordinarily caring as Dr Rajagopal,” he said.

His wife, Dana, agreed, adding high praise for Gregg Steahr, physician assistant and chief of Piedmont’s critical care medicine program. “They gave us more than just medical treatment and information. On many days they gave us hope when we felt like there wasn’t any,” she said.
Dix was discharged from Piedmont Hospital on February 11. He continues to recover at home in the Peachtree City Centennial subdivision.
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