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Sudden Death …Continuing Life

January 4, 2010

After his cardiac event, Joe brings Ro everywhere (even if it's only a cardboard cutout).

GREAT NECK -- As an artist, Joe Madura’s life is awash in color. More than just the tools of his trade, color is part of his DNA, entwined with who he is -- artist and person -- helping him interpret and share his vision of the world.

For Mr. Madura, graphic artist for the North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Art Department, his ability to share that vision was almost extinguished last fall. That’s when the color disappeared. And when it did, he nearly left this world for good.

“I was feeling fine,” Mr. Madura said of the October morning that was almost his last. “I was waiting for a meeting to start. The next thing I knew, everything went gray, the colors and pictures all disappeared.  I stopped remembering what happened.”

Sudden Death
What happened was Mr. Madura experienced sudden cardiac death.  And the absence of color wasn’t some literary symbol about an artist’s life but his last memory prior to clinical death.

“I was told later by people in the room that my vision wasn’t the only thing to go gray,” he said. “My complexion went gray as well. I was gasping for air and slumped in my chair but I had no recollection of any of that. My co-workers said my eyes were open but not blinking. Some later said they thought I was playing a joke.

But nobody was laughing.

The Color Comes Back
Fortunately, Rosemarie Ennis, EMT, the health system’s director of public health education, was at the same meeting. A certified automated external defibrillator (AED) trainer, Ms. Ennis began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Ms. Ennis fought to keep Mr. Madura alive while others summoned Cathy Blotiau, a life-support regional trainer, who was in the same building. With the assistance of an AED and further CPR, she proceeded to shock Mr. Madura’s heart while others in the room called for an ambulance.

“That AED holds 360 joules of electricity,” Ms. Ennis said. “When we were through, the entire battery was drained. Not a joule was left. Joe was gone and it took every bit of energy contained in that defibrillator to bring him back. It was an amazing thing when the color came back to his face.” 

CPR and AED Training Saves Lives
The paramedics arrived and Mr. Madura remembers them saying, “You owe these women your life.” He smiled. “They are my guardian angels.”

Later, Mr. Madura learned a very low potassium level caused an arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death. He suffered neither neurological nor heart damage. At North Shore University Hospital, he had an internal defibrillator implanted. The defibrillator can restart Mr. Madura’s heart rhythm should such an event recur.

“I never would’ve believed that day that something would have happened and it could’ve been my last,” Mr. Madura said. “I’m thankful to still be here and that Ro and Cathy knew what to do. It’s so important to learn CPR and have AED training. I’m living proof.”

“The statistics speak for themselves,” Ms. Blotiau said. “The survival rate for those suffering sudden cardiac death without an AED being administered during the event is two percent. With CPR and an AED it’s 64 percent.”

Want to know more? You can take a 3.5-hour course at the health system to learn CPR and AED use to save a life.

For more information or to sign up for the course, e-mail
North Shore-LIJ Community Health:  healthed@nshs.edu

Contact:  Brian Mulligan

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