Husband collapses, wife saves his life



Itzik thought he would be waking up to a typical Shabbat morning with the family, but instead collapsed after a heart attack.  His wife, Talia, remembered some resuscitation techniques she had seen on “Grey’s Anatomy” and – by performing them – she saved her husband’s life.

Itzik, 51 years old from Jerusalem, suffered from coronary heart disease that caused obstruction in three cardiac arteries. After three cardiac arrests and four catheterizations in the last 10 years, he decided to adopt a healthier lifestyle and sensible nutrition. His situation improved and he was able to lead a relatively normal life. 

One Shabbat morning, the family was about to sit down for breakfast when suddenly, without warning, Itzik collapsed from Ventricular Fibrillation (VF).

Said Talia, “He came into the kitchen and said he felt awful. He called my name and then just dropped to the floor. I tried waking him up but he didn’t react and because of his history I immediately thought it was a heart attack.” 

Talia then instinctively tried to reconstruct the procedures she had seen on “Grey’s Anatomy” and for the next 20 minutes attempted to revive her husband. “It seemed like an eternity,” she said later.

Meanwhile, their 12-year-old son called for help and a paramedical team arrived, and continued the resuscitation attempts as they took Itzik to Shaare Zedek. They gave him the last of about 15 electric shocks as they rushed into the hospital. At the same time, they were giving him drugs to stabilize his heartbeat and pulse.

“Those were very scary moments with all sorts of scenarios racing through my head, but every time the treatment team looked as though they were losing hope, Itzik came round again,” said Talia. 

Itzik was rushed into the ICU and later had another catheterization. Dr. Mark Klotstein, Director of the Cardiac Hospitalization Unit at Shaare Zedek, who had been treating Itzik for 10 years, was also called in to the hospital:

“Although his cardiac situation was stable and the catheterization did not show any evidence of severe cardiac arrest, he was still deeply unconscious, and his eyes were moving from side to side, which could indicate damage in the brainstem. In these kinds of cases, severe neurological damage is very common. To try and prevent brain damage from lack of oxygen, we cooled Itzik’s body to a temperature of 32-34°C. After 24 hours of ‘freezing’ the brain and another two days during which he was sedated due to acute pains in his ribs (after some had been broken during the repeated resuscitation attempts), Itzik woke up and surprisingly even remembered some details from the day he collapsed.”

According to Dr. Klotstein, the cause of the heart attack was an old scar in the heart muscle, secondary to one of Itzik’s heart attacks about 10 years ago: “These kinds of scars are a common cause of VF and cardiac arrest. Patients with a sharp decline in the functioning of their left ventricle and a large scar are more likely to have a heart attack and therefore have a defibrillator implant in order to prevent sudden death. But patients like Itzik, with a slight decline in functioning, can also get an attack and the only way to save them is immediate resuscitation and particularly heart massage. Another solution is to have automatic defibrillators in public places like malls, synagogues, etc. That can save many lives and prevent or reduce neurological disabilities.”

Talia: “Itzik is a tough man with a big soul,” but, says Dr. Klotstein, “The real heroine here is Talia, who didn’t lose her cool and immediately went into action, saving her husband’s life. She called for help, which is crucial in these situations, and started to perform resuscitation with a lot of strength and determination, within a minute or two of Itzik’s collapse.”

After about 10 days in hospital, Itzik had a subcutaneous defibrillator implanted in his body and was discharged in a stable condition. He is expected to undergo a period of rehabilitation at home. Meanwhile, Talia has decided to extract the lemonade from the lemons and asked her two children to write about how to react and show determination in an emergency. The children will present their work to their classmates with the aim of giving them information and hopefully helping them if – Heaven forbid – they ever have to deal with a similar situation.