Life-saving Technology Found Right Here at Floyd Memorial Gives Southern Indiana Man a New Lease on Life

March 8, 2012

Mark Shofner

It was November 30, 2011 and the holiday season was just beginning. Like many other families, Mark and Dena Shofner were preparing to have a special night of decorating. Dena had been to the store to buy steaks for dinner and a Christmas tree to decorate. But before they settled in for the evening, Mark and Dena went to the YMCA in New Albany for a spinning class. Both are regulars at the YMCA, and Mark, an avid cyclist, uses spinning class to stay in shape during the winter months. It is common for him to cycle at least 100 miles per week.

Mark and Dena enjoyed a great workout together, even teasing each other during class. After spinning was over, Mark left the room before Dena. As Mark walked into the hall he collapsed when his heart went into full cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation. Dena, a trained respiratory therapist, heard others call out “man down.” When she stepped out of the room she discovered that man was her husband.

Going into medical professional mode, Dena quickly started CPR and within minutes had the YMCA’s automatic external defibrillator (AED) activated. Once the EMS arrived, they took over treatment and transported Mark by ambulance to Floyd Memorial Hospital. By the time he arrived at the Emergency Department, resuscitation had been underway nearly 30 minutes, Mark’s heart had been shocked numerous times and he was unconscious, but he did have a pulse.

As a medical professional, Dena believed he needed hypothermia therapy treatment to preserve brain function, but also knew that it was not a common procedure at every hospital. Dena was ecstatic to learn it was possible at Floyd Memorial, and board certified emergency medicine physician John Petrey, MD, initiated it immediately. “I was thrilled to find out Floyd Memorial offered hypothermia therapy when we got here,” exclaimed Dena.

John Petrey
“We are fortunate at Floyd Memorial to have the staff and physicians to offer hypothermia therapy. This is a tremendous advantage for the patients and a big undertaking by the hospital staff to see it through. By providing this aggressive form of treatment, our patients have a better chance of a favorable neurological recovery.”

John Petrey, MD

Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician
Floyd Emergency Medical Associates
Kevin Hollis
“It is gratifying to see the results of this treatment. Mark was able to experience a remarkable recovery in a fairly short period of time. He has few restrictions and has been able to return to the life he enjoyed before.”

Kevin Hollis, MD, FACC

Board Certified Cardiologist
Cardiovascular Associates of Southern Indiana

Brain Saving Therapy

Hypothermia therapy is a very aggressive form of treatment used to improve patient outcomes, including survival chances and recovery from injury to the brain. The introduction of hypothermia therapy lowers the metabolism rate of the patient, minimizing damage to the tissues. Those who benefit from this form of treatment include patients who:

  • Have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest
  • Arrive at the Emergency Department with at least a blood pressure and heart rhythm
  • Are unconscious
  • Have a witnessed episode of cardiac arrest
  • Have received CPR within the first 15 minutes of cardiac arrest

This relatively new form of treatment for cardiac arrest patients is known to produce very positive results when combined with immediate cardiac catheterization treatment to open blocked arteries. Hypothermia therapy can double a patient’s chance of survival and increase the chances for better neurological function and better quality of life after recovery. For patients who meet the criteria for hypothermia therapy, such as Mark, it is started immediately upon arrival to the Emergency Department. The goal is to reach the targeted temperature within at least two hours of the cardiac arrest.

To cool the patient, ice bags are placed around the body including the groin, axilla and back of the neck. Cold saline (salt water) is infused through the veins, bringing the body’s temperature down between 90 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit. “By cooling the body rapidly, it slows the body’s metabolism, allowing brain function to be preserved,” Dr. Petrey stated. “Studies show that by doing this, patients experience good or complete neurological recovery. That temperature is then maintained with cooling blankets over the next 24 hours.”

Once the hypothermia therapy was initiated, Mark was taken to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab where board certified cardiologist Kevin Hollis, MD, discovered that Mark’s left anterior descending artery, the main artery going down the front of the heart, was completely blocked. Dr. Hollis explained that a balloon was used to open the artery and two stents were put in place to keep it open. This procedure restored full blood flow to the heart. Mark was then transferred to the Critical Care Unit, and the waiting began.

Hypothermia Therapy

Hypothermia Therapy

The patient’s body is cooled to 90-93 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours after the cardiac arrest, then slowly rewarmed and allowed to wake up. The goal is to preserve vital organs including the neurological system. This increases the chances of improved cognitive and motor functions for the patient in the recovery that follows.

Miraculous Recovery

After 24 hours, Mark was brought out of the hypothermia-induced state gradually with a warming blanket over a six to eight hour period. Within hours, Mark began to communicate. Initially, Mark experienced some short-term memory problems, but within 24 hours there was improvement. “We were really scared about what his brain function would be like,” said his wife, Dena. “But his brain is perfect. He is perfect.” After a 10 day stay at Floyd Memorial, Mark was able to return home.

“This is the most gratifying result you can hope for in a patient,” Dr. Hollis stated. “This is a young, active man with a family. To return to the life he had before – that is the best I could hope for a patient.”

Dr. Petrey added, “Early CPR and defibrillation is key to survival.” He went on to say, “Everything fell into place perfectly. Being at the YMCA, having his wife who knew exactly what to do and then getting hypothermia therapy initiated immediately along with a heart catheterization saved his life.”

Mark continues on this path to recovery, and has resumed cycling at the YMCA. He is thankful for all who cared for him. “Everyone did the right thing and my care was fantastic. In fact, it was awesome,” he stated.

FREE Screenings and Training That Could Help Save a Life

Free Blood Pressure Screenings
Offered from 1:30-3 pm every other Friday in the hospital’s main lobby. See page 10 for dates.

Free ‘Take 2 for Heart & Stroke’ Screenings
One-on-one screening with a cardiac nurse, offering full lipid cholesterol panel, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index.
Registration required. Call 1-800-4-SOURCE (1-800-476-8723) to register.

Free Family & Friends CPR Course
Wednesday, April 11, 6-8:30 pm
Paris Health Education Center

Learn and practice the steps of CPR.
This is a non-certification course for lay people only. Space is limited to the first 20 registrants. Call 1-800-4-SOURCE (1-800-476-8723) to register.

Floyd Memorial Heart and Vascular Center

The Heart and Vascular Center at Floyd Memorial Hospital is dedicated to maintaining state-of-the-art technology and resources for prevention and treatment. We’re proud to have brought a lot of firsts in healthcare to the residents in our area. Here in Southern Indiana we performed the first open-heart surgery and the first minimally-invasive cardiac surgery (MICS). We also have a 24/7 cardiac intervention team, who can actually stop a heart attack in progress.