by Lisa Bicknell
Seventy-nine year old Mary Jenkins remembers nothing of those minutes when she collapsed and her heart stopped beating. She doesn’t remember the EMS staff working to bring her back, or being transported to a Lexington hospital in the hours after her heart was successfully restarted.
She was staying at her daughter Judy Roses’ house and had asked to use the bathroom. Mary suddenly collapsed, and Judy ran next door to the neighbors for help. Tim Powell lives nearby and rushed over to begin CPR until the medics could get there.
It was mid-April when the call came through to Estill County’s Emergency Medical Services that a woman was unresponsive and not breathing. Paramedic Michael Martin and EMT Mandy Neal arrived at Judy’s house at Renaissance Apartments in a few minutes. They found Mary without a pulse. Mandy took over CPR from the neighbor.
Just a minute or two later, paramedic Thomas Herron arrived on the scene to assist. The crew removed Mary from Judy’s home and got her into the ambulance where they immediately intubated and ventilated her, while administering medicines and hooking up the LUCAS devise, an expensive piece of equipment that mechanically performs CPR, leaving medics free to administer medicines and do other things.
EMS director Jimmy Wise said Mary was essentially “gone” when the crew arrived, but Martin and Herron continued to work with her while Neal transported them to the hospital. After a few minutes, they began to detect a slow, weak pulse. They began to use an exterior pacemaker of sorts that gives tiny electrical shocks and paced Mary’s heart at 70 beats a minute.
At Marcum and Wallace Memorial Hospital, other medicines were administered, and Jenkins soon recovered enough to be transported to a Lexington hospital by ground. Three days later, she was released to the Stanton nursing home where she spent about a week, then she was moved back to the Irvine Rehabilitation Center.
When Mary first woke up from her close call, she was in a strange bed surrounded by strange people and she says she “didn’t know what in the world was going on.”
Wise said it is “extremely rare” to see someone without a pulse brought back, and it might happen a dozen times in a lifetime of working in paramedics, if one is fortunate. He also noted that it often takes a community to save lives. “We have a saying, ‘Time is muscle’,” he said. The sooner CPR and medical aid is administered when a heart attack is occurring, the better the outcome. After four to six minutes without a pulse, brain damage starts to occur, and after six to eight minutes, severe brain damage or death is the expected outcome.
At the time of the interview with her, Mary had been admitted to MWMH for treatment of a mild pneumonia, but she was looking forward to returning to the Irvine nursing home to see her friends. “I love it there,” she said, adding that she’s looking forward to celebrating her birthday there with her family and friends. “I’m alive, and I’m thankful to be,” said Mary.
Her daughter Judy has nothing but praise and gratitude for all those who helped bring her mother back. She says she has tried to thank them all personally. Wise pointed out that the LUCAS device is used every time there is a pulseless cardiac arrest. That and much of the other top-notch equipment that the ambulance service uses is purchased using CSEPP funds. Every ambulance “truck” is loaded with $200,000 to $250,000 worth of equipment, which Wise said is “really impressive” for a community the size of Irvine.
It’s because of positive outcomes such as Mary Jenkins’ that the ambulance service workers love what they do. “It’s fun,” said Martin with a smile. He has an associate’s degree in emergency medical services, a bachelor’s degree in physical education, and a master’s degree in health education. Terron has a bachelor’s degree in Emergency Medical Care.
Mandy Neal says she has always had an interest in the medical field and has tried a few different things, but she “fell in love with EMS” as soon as she started EMT school. She already has a bachelor’s degree in health and will be pursuing a degree in para-medicine.