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Cardiac Arrest Victim Defies Death at Danbury Hospital

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 - Danbury, CT

Dr. William Bodner’s tale reads like a script from Grey’s Anatomy.

Emergency Department team resuscitates 48-year-old man in full cardiac arrest for more than an hour. Medical team cools his core body temperature while diagnostic tests reveal a life-threatening aortic aneurysm and leaky heart valve. Patient eventually wakes up without any brain damage and later undergoes open-heart surgery. He’s back to work in just three months.

These real-life events did not occur on a television set. They took place at Danbury Hospital, a university teaching hospital and regional health care facility with advanced medical resources and experienced physicians and nurses specially trained to handle the most challenging cases. All of the services Dr. Bodner needed to survive – from advanced resuscitation techniques and therapeutic hypothermia to interventional cardiology and electrophysiology procedures to sophisticated cardiac surgery – was readily available at Danbury Hospital.

Defying the odds

“I feel excellent thanks to the good work of everybody on staff at Danbury Hospital,” said Dr. Bodner, a Ridgefield, Conn. resident and radiation oncologist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. “The care throughout my entire ordeal was outstanding. I was surprised by the level of expertise that is available at Danbury Hospital.”

“This was an extraordinary case,” said Ira Galin, MD, a cardiologist at Danbury Hospital who was part of the interdisciplinary team that saved Dr. Bodner’s life. “He survived because we had a dedicated team of physicians, nurses and others who just wouldn’t give up. Plus we had all the resources and specialists we needed right at our finger-tips.”

Persistence pays off

The terrifying event began the morning of Good Friday when Sharon Bodner noticed her husband was making a strange noise and his eyes were rolled back in his head.

The ambulance crew transported Dr. Bodner to Danbury Hospital’s Emergency Department where a team trained in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) worked for more than an hour to resuscitate him. ACLS refers to a set of clinical protocols for the urgent treatment of cardiac arrest, including chest compressions, defibrillation, medication and other interventions.

Dr. Bodner’s youth and good health (he jogged three miles a day) prior to the cardiac arrest were a plus, said Dr. Galin. “Ultimately, our hard work and persistence paid off,” he added. “It’s uncommon for someone who has cardiopulmonary resuscitation for more than an hour to survive. He is clearly a survivor with a strong will to live.”

Diagnostics reveal heart abnormality

Within minutes of restoring his heartbeat, Dr. Bodner was taken to the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory where Hal Wasserman, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Danbury Hospital, performed a coronary angiogram to determine the cause of the cardiac arrest. “At first, we thought that a clogged artery may have caused a heart attack,” said Dr. Galin.

But the angiogram showed Dr. Bodner had a massive aortic aneurysm and associated leaky aortic valve, a condition that would require open-heart surgery. “We had a diagnostic answer within five minutes of leaving the Emergency Department,” said Dr. Galin. “We had a clear picture of what was going on and what we needed to do next.”

Therapeutic hypothermia minimizes brain damage

As part of the treatment process, Dr. Bodner’s core body temperature was cooled to 33° C (or 91.4° F) for 24 hours in the hopes of minimizing any neurologic damage caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain during a cardiac arrest, said Eric Jimenez, MD, Chief of Critical Care at Danbury Hospital. “Studies show that cooling the body decreases the metabolic rate of the brain which can diminish brain damage and inflammation,” he said. Dr. Bodner awakened a few days later without any neurological impairment. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Dr. Jimenez. “In the past, most people who experience such prolonged periods of cardiac arrest are left with devastating neurological injuries.”

Maintaining a steady heartbeat with implantable defibrillator

Dr. Bodner spent two weeks in the intensive care unit and another week on the hospital’s cardiac unit. He spent the next few weeks recovering at home in preparation for open-heart surgery. As a precaution, Robert Winslow, MD, an electrophysiologist at Danbury Hospital, surgically implanted a defibrillator to help the heart maintain a steady beat should Dr. Bodner experience another serious cardiac arrhythmia prior to undergoing open-heart surgery.

Cardiac surgery paves way for full recovery

The final step in Dr. Bodner’s recovery involved repairing the aortic aneurysm and faulty valve. Although he could have gone to a New York hospital, Dr. Bodner chose to undergo surgery with Cary Passik, MD, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Danbury Hospital. “I had confidence in the physicians and nurses at Danbury Hospital,” he said. “There was no need to go anywhere else.”

“Dr. Bodner had an enormous aortic aneurysm and a severely damaged aortic valve. A typical aorta is about two and a half centimeters in diameter; his was three times normal size at 7.5 centimeters,” said Dr. Passik. An aortic aneurysm is a weakened and bulging area in the aorta, the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the body.

To correct the problem, Dr. Passik performed what is known as a Bentall procedure. “This cardiac operation involves the composite replacement of the aortic valve, aortic root and ascending aorta, utilizing a Dacron fabric tube graft with a new valve at the bottom end. This also involves re-implantation of the patient’s coronary arteries into the sides of the graft,” explained Dr. Passik. “The surgery was a success and Dr. Bodner was home recuperating within five days.”

With the harrowing experience behind him, Dr. Bodner now focuses on his own patients as a radiation oncologist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. But he’ll never forget the months he spent as a patient under the care of Danbury Hospital’s physicians and nurses. “They are an exceptional group of people,” he said. “They saved my life.”

About Danbury Hospital

Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the Yale University School of Medicine, the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, digestive disorders, radiology and diagnostic imaging. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management and is nationally recognized for providing a high level of care to Women by HealthGrades®. Medical staff members are board-certified in their specialties, and most serve on the faculty of the nation’s finest medical centers offering a higher level of experience.

The Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center at Danbury Hospital is Western Connecticut’s most comprehensive, full-service cardiac and vascular care program that includes diagnostic testing, medical treatment, interventional and non-interventional cardiac and vascular procedure, electrophysiology, and minimally invasive and open-surgical procedures to evaluate and treat cardiovascular diseases. The Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center is accredited as a Chest Pain Center by the Society of Chest Pain Centers; one of only two hospitals in the state to carry this designation. Its Nuclear Medicine Laboratory is accredited by the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Laboratories, one of the first 50 Echocardiography Labs in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico to receive this recognition.