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Same-day stroke, cardiac arrest survivor ‘incredibly rare’

After cardiac arrest, stroke, patient benefits from coworkers’ quick reaction, seamless care between Tuality Healthcare and OHSU
Man and doctor in hospital room
Dr. Hormozd Bozorgchami looks in on Earl Heberlein, who survived a cardiac arrest and major stroke in the same day. “Any one of those things could have killed him, and now he’s back to normal.” (OHSU/Erik Robinson)

Few people have experienced a cardiac arrest and a stroke in a single day – and lived to tell about it.

Damascus resident Earl Heberlein is one rare exception. After enduring two life-threatening medical emergencies on Tuesday, Sept. 3, Heberlein made a remarkable recovery and was discharged from OHSU Hospital by the weekend.

Hormozd Bozorgchami, M.D.

“Any one of those things could have killed him, but didn’t,” said Hormozd Bozorgchami, M.D., an interventional neurologist and associate director of the OHSU Brain Institute stroke program. “And now he’s back to normal.”

In Heberlein’s case, he benefited from a quick response by co-workers at Lattice Semiconductor in Hillsboro, and seamless health care between Tuality Community Hospital in Hillsboro and OHSU Hospital on Marquam Hill.

The one-two punch:

  • Cardiac arrest: Heberlein, a 65-year-old quality assurance technician for Lattice Semiconductor, was going through his normal routine at work early Tuesday when he collapsed at a loading dock. Colleagues quickly assessed the problem, and didn’t hesitate to use one of the automated external defibrillators the company maintains on the premises.

     “Those two people saved his life,” said his son, Ron Heberlein.

    His coworkers delivered four shocks with the AED in the time it took for an ambulance to arrive and ferry him to Tuality Community Hospital. The medical staff at Tuality tackled the cardiac issue by inserting a pair of stents in his heart.

    During his recovery, another problem arose.
  • Stroke: Although he doesn’t remember much about the first part of his day, Heberlein does recall being in the intensive care unit at Tuality on Tuesday afternoon when he began struggling to talk. His speech was slurred. A nurse immediately recognized the problem – early recognition is crucial in stroke – and consulted a neurologist. He was then quickly transported by another ambulance to OHSU, where Bozorgchami removed a 2-inch clot from his carotid artery.

Heberlein says he’s immensely grateful to his co-workers, who recently had been trained and didn’t hesitate in using the device.

“You see the AEDs in hotels and airports, but how many people can actually use them?” he said.

Bozorgchami can attest to Heberlein’s good fortune.

The survival rate for people who suffer a cardiac arrest outside the hospital is less than 12%, according to the American Heart Association. On top of that, Bozorgchami estimates that more than 80% of the patients who suffer strokes similar to Heberlein’s are left with major disabilities.

“For him to come out of this with a normal recovery – after having a cardiac arrest and stroke in one day – is incredibly rare,” Bozorgchami said. “In my career, I’ve seen it maybe one other time. I can’t even find a statistic for it because it’s so low.

“I told him he owes his coworkers at least lunch.”

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