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Winter 2014 - Strong Heart, Smart Friends

The Alexanders aren’t big on family photos, but last fall they took one after a heart attack brought them even closer.

“Now, being together means so much more,” says Lisa Alexander, whose husband, Cecil, had a massive heart attack in fall 2013.

At age 46, Cecil enjoyed excellent health. He and a group of guys played basketball three times a week, and his Sundays were the envy of many.

CPR and physical fitness helped Cecil Alexander survive and thrive after a “widow-maker”

Sunday, October 20, started like most others. Cecil got up, made biscuits for the guys and headed to the golf course. After 18 holes, Cecil went home, changed his clothes and went to Franklinton Academy, where he met another group of guys to play basketball until 5 p.m.

About 4:30 p.m., Lisa received a call from Cecil. “You need to come get me,” Cecil said.

Assuming it was some sort of minor problem, Lisa settled 7-year-old Caden into the truck, and off they went to pick up Cecil. “I called Cecil from the road and someone else answered,” recalls Lisa.

“You need to get here,” said the voice on the phone. “Cecil collapsed, and we called EMS.”

When Lisa arrived at the school gym, emergency technicians were working on Cecil, and she was told to stay back. When she was allowed in the gym, what she saw was out of a nightmare.

“Time stopped. I could just see his legs, and they were shocking him with a defibrillator. It was total chaos,” she remembers.

While one of the guys took Caden to his grandmother’s house, Lisa rode in the ambulance with Cecil to WakeMed. Cecil was shocked again with the defibrillator in the ambulance and a third time at WakeMed. Things were not looking good.

Tests revealed that Cecil’s left main coro-nary artery was completely blocked. “This type of blockage and resulting heart attack is often called a widow-maker because its onset is so rapid, it often results in death,” explains Dr. Pratik Desai of Cary Cardiology and the interventional cardiologist who treated Cecil.

Angioplasty and two stents placed in the blocked artery restored Cecil’s blood flow.

Dr. Desai also initiated induced hypothermia treatment. “The type of severe, sudden blockage Cecil had quickly cut off the flow of oxygen, which is potentially damaging to both the heart and the brain,” says Dr. Desai. “Induced hypothermia can reduce the likelihood and/or the severity of brain damage and resulting neurological problems for people who have been resuscitated from a widow-maker. We have had excellent results with it.”

While many can rightfully credit Dr. Desai’s abilities as well as those of the emergency medical services team with saving Cecil’s life, Dr. Desai was quick to point out to Lisa the important role the “first responders” – Cecil’s teammates – played.

Jason Myers, Cecil’s teammate, administered cardiopulmonary resusitation (CPR) to Cecil when he stopped breathing. Annual CPR training was mandatory during Myers’ years as a police officer. While on the force, he never had to use his CPR skills, but having that knowledge gave him the confidence to step right up and help Cecil. “It would have been an awful feeling if I had to just stand there, not knowing how to help,” Myers says.

Cecil’s excellent physical condition before his heart attack, coupled with a positive attitude, are helping to speed his recovery. He hopes to be back on the basketball court with his buddies very soon.




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