Credits “Angels” for Life Saving Care
May, 11, 2009 -VIRGINIA BEACH, VA - After collapsing in full cardiac arrest while out for a jog just a few blocks from his Virginia Beach home, Ron Hamilton credits community “angels” and amazing medical professionals for saving his life. His story may make even the most cynical begin to believe in miracles.
A retired Navy Helicopter rescue pilot and former EMS volunteer, Steve Hartz, was jogging with his wife and saw Hamilton collapse. His wife dialed 911 as Hartz began CPR. By sheer coincidence, Master Police Officer Michael Melnyk and recruit Douglas Payer were in the neighborhood in a police car equipped with an Automated External Defibrillator, or AED. Hamilton’s heart was shocked and he was quickly transported to Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital, where Emergency Department staff and physicians acted quickly. When interventional cardiologist Dr. Deepak Talreja responded, he came upon a conscious, but very disoriented Hamilton.
“He knew his name, but he could not remember his phone number and he kept asking the staff what day of the week it was,” remembers Talreja.
As staff were readying the cardiac catheterization lab and Talreja was scrubbing in, a nurse called to him using his first name, Deepak. Upon hearing this, Hamilton lifted his head and made what seemed to be a startling discovery. The interventional cardiologist about to look inside his chest was the same Deepak Talreja whom he had taught sixth grade English.
“He was a little more gray than I remember, but I did recognize him all at once,” says Talreja. “It also served as a good indication that his memory was in tact.”
After getting pictures of his chest in the cath lab, Talreja determined that Hamilton would need open heart surgery. His left main artery was almost completely blocked. Hamilton was put on a heart pump and underwent successful heart surgery just a few hours later.
Upon waking in the hospital, Hamilton’s first memory of the entire experience was seeing his wife and asking what had happened.
“She told me ‘you’ve had guardian angels looking after you’,” recalls Hamilton. “And as she explained the events that unfolded, I had to agree. Under the circumstances, it seems to be a miracle.”
Talreja agrees that what happened to Hamilton was miraculous. “Most people would have never survived such an event,” he adds.
Prevention is the best medicine
Being of normal size and leading an active life meant that neither Hamilton nor anyone around him believed he could be sick. Hamilton considered himself fit - a rationale that allowed him to ignore some important risk factors - including a family history of heart disease.
“Prevention is important,” says Talreja. “If Ron Hamilton’s story makes more people aware of the dangers of heart disease, then people need to hear about it.”
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United Sates for men and women. The Centers for Disease Control reports that almost half of cardiac deaths occur before the initiation of emergency services or transport to a hospital. Statistics like these further underscore the significance of Hamilton’s early treatment.
Talreja encourages patients to better understand their risk factors and take necessary steps to control the factors they can. This includes such issues as blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, physical activity and tobacco use among others. It is also important to be aware of those factors that cannot be controlled, such as family history, so that your physician can get a more complete picture of heart health.
Hamilton recognizes and thanks his angels
Hamilton had a chance to properly meet all his “angels,” as both Hartz and Melnyk visited while he was in the hospital. Talreja too followed up with his former teacher and patient.
“I am so grateful to everyone involved,” says Hamilton. “These people are why I am still here today.”
After writing a letter of appreciation to the Virginia Beach Police Department, Hamilton was pleased to learn that Officers Melnyk and Payer will be recognized at the upcoming Annual Citizens and Police Award Ceremony with a Lifesaving Award on June 5.
Read more about cardiac care at Sentara and the Sentara Heart Hospital.