Dan Park’s heart-stopping experience came with no warning. He had taken his daughter, Sarah, to basketball practice on a January evening and watched some TV when he returned home. “We were joking and laughing,” his wife, Stephanie, recalls. The family said their goodnights and all was quiet until about 3 a.m.
“I heard a loud noise,” Stephanie recounts. “When I turned on the light, Dan was sitting up in bed holding onto his chest and gasping like he couldn’t breathe.” She never dreamed that the heart of her healthy, 44-year-old husband had just stopped. She knew something was wrong, however, and called 911. “It was like a nightmare,” she says.
Dan remembers nothing of the CPR administered by the policewoman first to reach him. Or having his heart shocked twice by paramedics. Or being taken five minutes down the road to Bethesda Arrow Springs where he was stabilized and transferred by helicopter to Bethesda North Hospital Emergency Department for intensive care treatment.
Stephanie, however, recalls clearly the fast work of the Arrow Springs staff and their kindness in explaining to her and her daughter what was happening.
Stephanie’s sister drove her and Sarah from Bethesda Arrow Springs to Bethesda North, where an emergency nurse approached Stephanie to offer a new hypothermia technology to cool Dan’s core body temperature and prevent further damage to his brain and organs from his cardiac arrest. Stephanie didn’t hesitate to follow the staff’s recommendations: “I put my faith and trust in them. I knew they were going to take care of him. I’m so glad Dan had a great team surrounding him. They were phenomenal.”
Dan remained in intensive care in a coma-like state for nearly two days. “When he woke up and the nurse was talking to him, that’s when I knew it was going to be OK,” Stephanie says. Dan continued his recovery and came home a week after his admission. He has a defibrillator with remote monitoring to prevent his heart from stopping again.
Stephanie reflects on the precision and speed of the care Dan received. “He could have been gone in a matter of minutes. He’s a miracle. We’re living every day and not taking anything for granted.