The night of Memorial Day 2012 began like any other. Karen Scholle and her husband were lying in bed, preparing to get a good night’s sleep. That’s the last thing she remembers. According to her husband, Scholle’s eyes rolled back in her head and she became unresponsive. He immediately administered CPR and advised one of their 15-year-old twin sons to call 911.
Bolingbrook Fire Department paramedics arrived and used a defibrillator to shock her seven times en route to Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital – and again three more times the following day at the hospital. In the hospital’s cardiac catheterization laboratory, cardiologists Dr. James McMahon and Dr. Edgar Carell used a catheter to insert an intraaortic balloon pump to increase blood flow and decrease her heart’s workload.
Once stabilized, she was transferred by helicopter to an academic medical center for further treatment. She later underwent 10 days of rehabilitation – two days less than she was in a coma.
Scholle, a 49-year-old Bolingbrook resident, recently visited the Bolingbrook Fire Department, Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital’s intensive care unit and McMahon and Carell’s office to express her appreciation in person to her caregivers.
“Because of the quick thinking and the actions of the Bolingbrook team, I have zero residual effects,” Scholle said. “I credit God, my husband, the fire department and the doctors for doing everything right, and giving me the chance to live.”
She later learned that she was technically dead upon EMS arrival. Her ejection fraction, a measurement of how much blood the left ventricle pumps out with each heartbeat, was just 5 percent; a normal, healthy reading is between 55 and 70 percent. Only 5 percent of patients with this serious condition survive.
Her diagnosis is viral cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle in which it becomes inflamed. She experienced no symptoms or warning signs and, in fact, exercises regularly, watches what she eats and is in excellent health. The whole episode has given Scholle a new perspective on life.
“Karen is alive today because of the actions of her family members, the fire department’s EMS responders and the Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital team,” Carell said. “We have the appropriate facilities – in particular, the hospital’s cardiac cath lab – to assess her, stabilize her and initiate the appropriate care quickly. It was a team effort.”