August 20, 2009
Good Samaritans cooperate to help save life of stranger
Bolingbrook – Thanks to two Good Samaritans and team of experienced medical professionals, 51-year-old Larry Larson is alive today. The heating and air conditioning worker was driving from a Bolingbrook job site in late March when he had a massive heart attack behind the wheel of his van on Remington Boulevard.
Julie Simunjak, a collector for Adventist Midwest Health in Bolingbrook, she spotted Larson slumped over his steering wheel. She pulled over, dialed 911, and opened Larson’s door and put the vehicle in park. Another Good Samaritan – nurse Charlene Sheehan – also pulled over.
“I told the 911 dispatcher he wasn’t breathing well,” said Sheehan, who works at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital’s Wound Care Center and was in Bolingbrook to lead a computer training class. “I had a pulse, but then I lost it.”
Both Simunjak and Sheehan pulled Larson out of the truck. Sheehan began CPR as Simunjak held his head to ensure his airway would remain open, then flagged down the ambulance as it neared. Emergency responders used a defibrillator to administer an electric shock through Larson’s chest wall to his heart to restore normal heart rhythm.
Larson was taken to the emergency room at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital less than a mile away. There Dr. Dominick Stella, director of the cardiac catheterization laboratory/vascular laboratory, performed an emergent cardiac catheterization, which determined that Larson actually had suffered sudden cardiac death due to severe blockages in multiple blood vessels in his heart. He placed a stent – a small metal mesh tube used to hold open a vessel – into Larson’s right iliac artery and also inserted an intraaortic balloon pump to improve blood flow to Larson’s heart and prevent another episode of ventricular fibrillation.
He was then transported by ambulance to Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, where Dr. Frank Lutrin, medical director of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, performed a six-vessel bypass surgery.
Larson spent more than a week in the hospital recovering. Since his discharge, he has visited lung and heart specialists regularly and will soon begin physical therapy. It will be several months before he can return to work. Stella told him he “won the cardiac lottery” because neither his heart nor brain were damaged.
“I feel lucky to be alive,” the Yorkville resident said. “Very lucky.”
Stella praised Simunjak and Sheehan, paramedics and fellow members of Larson’s care teams at both hospitals for their roles in providing a seamless process to transfer him from Adventist Bolingbrook to Adventist Hinsdale Hospital.
“This poor guy literally died on the road, but because of great teamwork, Mr. Larson will see his 52nd birthday,” Stella said.
Larson praised his nurses from Adventist Hinsdale Hospital’s cardiovascular intensive care unit. At an emotional reunion in Bolingbrook weeks after his discharge, Larson thanked Simunjak for her help.
“I was just one piece of the puzzle,” the Alsip resident said.
Sheehan, a Batavia resident with 29 years of nursing experience, was relieved to hear of Larson’s recovery. Stopping to assist Simunjak, she said, “was the right thing to do.”