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June 18, 2013 > Alameda County Recognizes Washington Hospital for Teamwork in Helping Save Life of Cardiac Arrest Patient

Alameda County Recognizes Washington Hospital for Teamwork in Helping Save Life of Cardiac Arrest Patient

On May 22, Alameda County honored Washington Hospital for the quality and effectiveness of its response to cardiac arrest by giving it a Professional Partner "Star" Award for the staff's "teamwork in administering life-saving interventions to a cardiac arrest victim." The award was presented to Michael Platzbecker, R.N., the Hospital's ED manager, and Brenda Brennan, RN, the ED's Clinical Nurse Specialist, during the County's annual EMS Week Awards Banquet Luncheon at Sunol Valley Golf Club. The emergency medical services (EMS) team and the man who survived the cardiac arrest also attended the awards ceremony.

"Working together at the Hospital and also with EMS staff in the field is essential to providing life-saving care to people in our community who suffer cardiac arrest and other serious heart problems," said Platzbecker. "This award is all about teamwork, and it's an honor for our Hospital to be recognized."

Washington Hospital has been a leader in providing intervention and treatment for cardiac arrest, heart attack and heart disease for more than 17 years. The Hospital cares for approximately 110-120 cardiac arrest victims annually.

All the elements

As a designated cardiac receiving center for Alameda County, Washington Hospital has all the elements needed to provide fast, effective emergency treatment that gives victims of cardiac arrest and other life-threatening heart problems the best chance for survival and full recovery. A trained, multidisciplinary staff and close collaboration between the Emergency Department (ED), Cardiac Catheterization (Cath) Laboratory, Critical Care Units and other Hospital departments is essential to making this vital process happen quickly, accurately and efficiently.

Sudden cardiac arrest

The event that triggered this year's EMS Award occurred last summer. As Platzbecker explains it, a man in his early fifties had volunteered to help with some fairly strenuous outdoor work when he experienced sudden cardiac arrest. He became unconscious and unresponsive.

The three people who were working with him sprang into action immediately, calling 9-1-1 and starting chest compressions. Paramedics soon arrived and used a defibrillator to restore the man's heartbeat. Before he was transported to Washington Hospital, his heart stopped a second time, and EMS personnel were able to shock it into beating once again.

"When the patient arrived in the ED, he had a sustainable rhythm," recalled Platzbecker. "After the patient had the return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC), one of the primary priorities is to preserve and improve the post-arrest neurological function. This task was accomplished through the implementation of therapeutic hypothermia."

In addition to a highly trained, experienced staff of emergency physicians, nurses and support personnel, Washington Hospital's ED has access to advanced diagnostic equipment and services. It also utilizes the latest treatments and procedures to stabilize cardiac arrest patients, providing life-saving care as quickly, safely and accurately as possible.

Achieving the best outcomes

As a cardiac receiving center, the Hospital follows certain procedures to help achieve the best possible outcomes from cardiac arrest or heart attack. For example, studies have shown that lowering a patient's body temperature, called therapeutic hypothermia, can help avoid damage to brain tissue that can occur during periods of insufficient blood flow, such as when the heart is not beating. In this case, the ED staff used elaborate cooling blankets to lower the patient's body temperature, helping to avoid neurological damage.

After that, Washington Hospital's state-of-the-art Cath Lab and trained staff took over to pinpoint the cause of the cardiac problem and intervene, if needed. Advanced equipment in the Lab supports a minimally invasive approach to opening clogged arteries, when possible. In this patient's case, he had three blocked arteries and would need coronary artery bypass surgery to create pathways redirecting the blood around the blockages and back to his heart.

The patient was then transferred to the Cardiac Care Unit, where he received specialized care to improve and monitor his condition until he could go to the Hospital's 5West telemetry unit. Since he would require surgery and the cardiac arrest had caused his condition to deteriorate, he stayed in the Hospital for several weeks to be rehabilitated. After successful surgery was performed, he was also helped by the Hospital's social workers, who provided him with support and resources to make his return home as smooth as possible.

"Seven months later, this man has no neurological impairment from the cardiac arrest he suffered, and he is back at work," reported Platzbecker. "Like many cardiac patients who come to Washington Hospital, he was touched by so many departments, and his outcome has been excellent."

Learn more

To find out more about Washington Hospital's Emergency Department and Cardiac Care programs, go to To learn more about the elements of a Cardiac Arrest Resuscitation Center, visit the Web site of the American Heart Association at

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