March 16, 2012
by Audrey Fraizer
The doctors have called Bryan Ryker’s complete recovery from a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) nothing short of a miracle.
Ryker survived and walked out of the hospital one week after the medical emergency thanks in part to the rapid-fire chain of response, beginning with his wife Christy’s 9-1-1 call answered by EMD Amy Riley of the Three River Ambulance Authority (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
“I was basically gone,” Bryan said. “Amazingly, no one gave up.”
A strange noise coming from Bryan’s side of the bed jolted Christy out of a sound sleep minutes before 6 a.m. on May 4, 2011. She leaned over thinking he was having a nightmare. His body was rigid. She turned on the light. He didn’t look well.
Christy went right to work. She pulled her husband off the bed, called 9-1-1 on speakerphone, and began CPR.
“She had recently completed a bystander CPR course but still needed some help,” Riley said. “That’s where our training and ProQA comes in.”
For the next several minutes, Riley gave Christy Pre-Arrival Instructions (PAIs) for CPR. When the fire truck arrived, Bryan was given one shock to the heart. There was no response. Ambulance paramedics, arriving moments later, shocked his heart five more times on the way to the hospital before his heart completely lost all electrical impulses.
By the time Bryan was delivered to the ER, 40 minutes had passed since Christy had called 9-1-1. Bryan’s blood had turned acidic, indicating a lack of oxygen and evidence of possible severe brain damage.
Bryan spent another 10 minutes without a pulse until administration of atropine and epinephrine returned a heartbeat. CPR continued throughout each step.
For the next two days, Bryan remained in a coma. The forms for a “brain dead organ donation” were filled out in accordance with Bryan’s earlier instructions.
“After two days they stopped the drugs that were keeping me unconscious,” Bryan said. “They didn’t expect me to ever wake up.”
But the organ donation forms were never processed. Bryan gained consciousness and was soon talking normally to his wife and other visitors. His cardiologist and neurologist have called his complete recovery “miraculous.”
A week after the SCA, Bryan was heading out the doors. He picked up his laptop from the office and began working from home that weekend. His heart has so far tested normal (pre-incident) without any surgical or mechanical intervention other than a stint. His cognitive abilities are the same as if nothing ever happened.
Bryan survived an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest with a good outcome. He was among the fewer than 5% who survive to tell their stories. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a person down for 10 to 12 minutes without any assistance is almost impossible to revive.
Whether someone sees a person collapse, calls 9-1-1, and begins effective CPR are critical factors the AHA cites in a survivor’s prospects. Even though the pumping efficiency of CPR is only 10%–30% of normal, correctly pumping the chest keeps some oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other organs.
Bryan credits his recovery to the emergency medical community’s persistence and the “amazing number of people who were praying for me.”
“Modern medicine was able to restart my heart after 50 minutes and bring my body back to life,” Bryan said. “How I am still fully here I don't know how to explain, other than that it is God.”
The assistance the Rykers received from the EMS team did not go ignored. Within a month of the incident, Bryan and Christy stopped by Three Rivers Ambulance with a plate of cookies to pass around. They not only wanted to meet the people instrumental in saving Bryan’s life, but also encourage them to never give up, no matter how hopeless a situation might seem.
The Rykers are among the very few people Riley has met from the thousands of phone calls she has answered during her 13 years as a dispatcher.
“They realized how lucky they are,” Riley said. “Few do. A lot of people don’t make it.”
But does Riley act like anything she did was worth more than a mention in passing?
“Of course not,” said Melissa Freehling, communications manager for the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority Operations Division. “She’ll tell you it was no big deal.”
The Rykers would disagree.