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True Teamwork Saves a Brockton Man’s Life

05/02/2017

Joel Walters of Brockton never could have imagined what would happen to him in December of 2016. Earlier that year, the 53-year-old moved to Massachusetts from Jamaica to join his wife and family. Five months later, the hardworking, seemingly healthy Walters woke up in the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) at Tufts Medical Center, with no memory of what had taken place or why he was there. Walters had gone into cardiac arrest.  

“I think it was the first and only time in my life I panicked,” recalled Walters’ wife, Charmain. “Joel never had a heart problem, no breathing issues, no fainting. He doesn’t take medicine. He doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t even drink.” 

Walters had agreed to help a friend do some work in Boston that day. The two men were raking when Walters’ friend realized that Walters wasn’t answering him.  He found Walters on the ground, unresponsive and immediately took action – calling 9-1-1 and performing CPR, a technique for which he received no formal training. Walters’ friend didn’t stop until paramedics arrived and rushed Walters off to nearby Tufts MC. 

“Seconds really counted here,” said Munther Homoud, MD, Co-Director of the New England Cardiac Arrhythmia Center at Tufts Medical Center and a cardiologist who specializes in the evaluation and management of patients with cardiac rhythm disorders. “Had there been a delay in the initiation of CPR or in calling 9-1-1, the outcome, neurologically, would have been poor.”  

Tufts MC Team in Action 

The team in the CCU – led by Dr. Homoud and Michael McBrine MD, Pulmonary Physician and a critical care specialist -- wasted no time in diagnosing the cause of Walters’ cardiac arrest. A combination of tests and a review of Walters’ medical history determined that there was no blockage, but a scar of unclear origin was discovered on Walters’ heart. After ruling out a number of more common causes, the mosquito-transmitted virus, chikungunya, that Walters had contracted in Jamaica, was likely the cause of the scar and his cardiac arrest. Now physicians could determine the next steps. 

Walters and his wife were kept updated every step of the way, thanks to the intensivist model recently adopted in the CCU.  It keeps patients and their family members informed; with someone always on hand to answer questions or connect them to staff that could provide more information. 

“It’s a highly competitive marketplace, so we need to constantly find new ways to stand out from everyone else,” said Ken Shanahan, RN, is the Clinical Nursing Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and Cardiac Care Unit. “That extra effort to constantly communicate with our patients and their families helps to reassure them that they will receive the best possible care from people who truly go above and beyond to ensure an outstanding patient experience.” 

Best Possible Outcome 

After three days in the CCU, Walters was moved to the Cardiology Inpatient Unit. When he had recovered further, Walters received an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) to prevent a future heart episode. On December 17, 2016, Walters went home – just in time for the holidays. 

“Several teams were involved, working seamlessly together to deliver the care that translates into the best possible outcome.” said Dr. Homoud.  “Now, with his ICD in place, Mr. Walters’ long-term prognosis is very good.”

Today, Joel Walters is back to work and has resumed his normal lifestyle. He credits the staff of physicians and nurses, one in particular – Meagan Donovan, RN – for their outstanding professionalism. “They were wonderful.  They took real good care of me,” he said. 

“If we had to do this over again, I would want the same place and the same people,” said Charmain. “Some of the really good people in the world are there. People like that make life worth living!” 

Posted May 2017

The above content is provided for educational purposes by Tufts Medical Center. It is free for educational use. For information about your own health, contact your physician.