Thank you to the people who saved our son
to the editor
Our son has celebrated his 33rd birthday. That may not seem like a momentous occasion to most people, but without an amazingly talented group of first responders, there would have been no reason to celebrate. What those of you reading this might not know is the course of care that saved our son’s life was started by Tammy Dame, our very own nurse/angel from Stacy, who happened to be in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, airport at just the right time.
On Dec. 7 of last year, our son Ryan’s heart stopped beating and he collapsed in the Albuquerque airport as he prepared to travel home from a business trip. We have Ryan thanks to guardian angels in the form of an airport employee who called in the emergency and ran to help, Tammy who was traveling through the airport who initially assessed the situation and very competently started CPR, officers from the airport police who administered an AED shock, and three firemen who then set up and administered two additional shocks and meds; it took the third shock and a shot of epinephrine to get Ryan’s heart reset and beating on its own so that he could be transported.
It was every parents’ and wife’s worst nightmare as we raced to get to New Mexico from Northern California, knowing only that Ryan’s heart had stopped and he was on a ventilator in the trauma center at the UNM Hospital. The next few days were agonizingly long as we worried then celebrated him opening his eyes, squeezing his wife’s hand, purposefully moving his limbs, and gradually being removed from the respirator. Believe it or not, exactly one week after the cardiac arrest, we were all able to fly home with Ryan sporting a newly implanted defibrillator.
What absolutely continues to amaze us is that Ryan is fine — physically and cognitively. We have done research, and to have a “field save” with a complete brain and physical recovery is a miracle. This can only be attributed to the talent and perseverance of the excellent first responders. (The doctors have classified the arrest as an idiopathic event — he is in excellent health, with the only abnormality being mitral valve prolapse which should not have caused such an event; we’re hoping it will never happen again, but the defibrillator is in place if it does).
While in the hospital, we were so pleased to have the firefighters and the police officers visit with us to thank them in person. In June, we travelled to Minnesota to meet and thank in person Tammy and her husband, Fred — what a joy that was! We feel so very strongly that it was Tammy’s competence as a nurse, her take-charge attitude, and the skill with which she administered CPR and circulated Ryan’s oxygen that are primarily responsible for having saved not just Ryan’s life, but also his brain.
You are lucky to have someone like Tammy living in your beautiful area. While many were stepping over and around our son, Tammy stepped up; for that we will be forever grateful. So please remember to hug your family and tell them you love them, help a stranger in need because they are someone’s child, and thank any nurse, doctor, or first responder you come in contact with. They do for others what they did for us multiple times a day, and it’s rare that they are thanked for their sacrifices.
Mark and Paula Johnson
Lake Almanor, California