Near Death Experience a 'Blessing'

Near Death Experience a Blessing
Jeff Brown is grateful to all the medical personnel at John C. Lincoln who cared for him after his cardiac arrest, but most of all to Cardiac Cath Lab nurse Debbie Lyon, who just happened to be next to him in line at the auto store when his heart went haywire.

North Mountain Hospital cardiologist and electrophysiologist Mark Seifert, MD, knows why Jeff Brown's heart stopped while he was standing in line at the auto store.

"He has a readily inducible ventricular tachycardia," Dr. Seifert said. "That means his heart can go into a sudden death rhythm in an instant, probably because his heart has a muscular abnormality. It is a very high risk of death."

What Dr. Seifert doesn't know for sure is why Brown's heart restarted after the 6-foot 4-inch tall, 240-pound man dropped "like a chopped oak, flat on his face," in the descriptive phrase of an observer.

"I can't prove it," Dr. Seifert said, "but it's possible that the extreme impact mimicked the effect of a defibrillator," the device used to shock a heart back into normal rhythmic heartbeats.

It's probably safe to say that not everyone would consider such a near death experience "a blessing," but Jeff Brown is convinced of it.

"I don't believe in coincidences," Brown said. "There was a reason that a cardiac nurse from John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital was behind me in line that day. There was a reason I didn't die.

"It was like God speaking to me and saying 'I could have taken you home today, but I didn't. Now that I have your attention, you need to spend the rest of your life doing what I meant for you to do.' I don't think I ever thought of God as 'Sir' before, but at that moment I said 'Yes, Sir!' and it's given me a whole new perspective," Brown said.

Mark Seifert, MD
Mark Seifert, MD

Jeff's wife Judy tells everyone John C. Lincoln could not have taken better care of her husband.

Part of that is because North Mountain Hospital Cath Lab nurse Debbie Lyon was standing behind Jeff Brown in line when his heart went haywire.

When Brown keeled over, Lyon's nurse training kicked into high gear. She hauled him on to his back, cleared his airway and made sure his heart was beating. She stayed with him, making sure his vital signs were functioning, until paramedics and EMTs arrived. Then Debbie called his wife.

It took Judy less than 10 minutes to get to the store, where "all these firefighters" were attending to Jeff. Her calm demeanor convinced Lyon Jeff was in good hands and it was safe to leave.

The first responders were worried initially about the major impact of Jeff's head injury. It was evident he'd need to be taken to North Mountain Hospital, the nearest Level I Trauma Center.

Once at the Trauma Center, Judy watched with amazement as the trauma team swarmed over her husband, checking all his systems to find out what happened. He was admitted to the hospital, where CT scans showed he had a concussion, but had escaped more serious brain or skull damage.

"The next morning, he opened his pretty eyes," Judy said, "and he asked about our dogs! Then Dr. Seifert — an amazing, amazing doctor — came in."

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Mark Seifert, MD, sub-specializes in the heart's electrical problems. Dr. Seifert understands the mechanical aspects of the human blood pumping process, but he shines when it comes to the sophisticated issues that affect the electric system that controls the heart's every beat.

During the testing to diagnose the exact nature of Jeff's problem, Jeff's heart completely stopped — cardiac arrest — three times. "A normal heart doesn't do that," Dr. Seifert said.

That meant Jeff needed a defibrillator implanted in his chest, which Dr. Seifert did the next day. If Jeff's cardiac electrical system ever malfunctions in the future, the defibrillator will automatically deliver a jolt of electricity that kicks it back into action.

After a day in the hospital, Jeff's physicians agreed that he could go home to recover in the company of his three beloved rescued schnauzers — Oz, Chase and Baxter — under the care of his levelheaded wife.

"Wow, honey," Jeff, a career services manager in Phoenix, told his wife. "I don't think God's through with me yet, do you?"

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