Cody Fisher led the life of a normal 17-year-old until his life changed in a matter of seconds. The New York teen was at his job as a camp counselor at Camp Nockamixon in Kintnersville during a recent summer when he went into sudden cardiac arrest. Cody's heart had stopped beating effectively and his life was in imminent danger. The camp nurse, doctor and Emergency rescue workers used CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and an external automatic defibrillator (AED) to shock the teen's heart to start it beating again before he was taken to Doylestown Hospital.
It was there that the medical team determined Cody was a candidate for medical therapeutic hypothermia treatment. Cody had been resuscitated successfully and had a faint blood pressure and a heart rate. He had arrived at the hospital within the 6- to 8-hour window (from the time of his arrest) for the hypothermia treatment. But Cody was still at risk for serious neurological injury. When the heart stops abruptly or beats ineffectively as in cardiac arrest, blood flow is interrupted and organs are deprived of oxygen. If the brain is denied oxygen for more than three minutes, it begins to die.
If the body is cooled within four to eight hours after the heart stops, and has been restarted, the brain's metabolic rate slows and it can survive with less oxygen. Medical hypothermia controls swelling and aids in the process of restoring brain activity once oxygen flow has returned. Cooling also prevents the release of brain-damaging chemicals called free radicals.
Cody had obvious signs of neuro-trauma when the medical team started to induce a medical coma. Using a specially designed cooling suit, Cody's core body temperature was lowered to 91.4 degrees F (or 33 degrees C) where it was maintained for 24 hours. Then it took more than 10 hours to slowly bring Cody's body temperature back up to normal. Cody's mother, Alisa Herschaft, didn't know at that point if her son would survive the serious ordeal. But with his family by his side, Cody emerged from the coma, not knowing what had happened to him or remembering anything from the past few days.
"I am so lucky that Doylestown Hospital had a hypothermic suit," Cody said. Unfortunately, very few hospitals have this important, additional step of life-saving equipment. "I was in the right place at the right time."
But that's not the end of Cody's story. A team of physicians and nurses from The Heart Institute of Doylestown Hospital set about to determine what had sent Cody into cardiac arrest in the first place. Cody underwent heart catheterization in the hope that it would pinpoint the source of his problem. The medical team found that, structurally, Cody's heart was fine. But they soon discovered that the teen had Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW), a heart condition in which there is an extra electrical pathway (circuit) in the heart that causes an irregular rapid heartbeat (arrhythmia). In rare cases, WPW can result in cardiac arrest, and sudden death.
Doylestown Hospital electrophysiologists (cardiologists who specialize in the electrical function of the heart) performed an EP ablation on Cody to fix the electrical problem with his heart. They were able to successfully eliminate the extra electrical current that caused the arrhythmia, and he was ready to resume his normal activities. Just to be sure that his heart would not stop again, the soon-to-be high school seniorwore a special monitor for 6 weeks until it was determined he had been completely cured.
Cody has become a passionate advocate for the use of CPR and the AED that helped save his life. He has worked with his school district to get its teachers CPR-certified, and to make sure AEDs are available where they're needed. Cody and his mother are grateful for the life-saving care they received at Doylestown Hospital.
"I really don't know how to thank the doctors and nurses at Doylestown Hospital," said Alisa. "I can only say how incredible they are!"
She credits the cardiologists and staff at The Heart Institute for diagnosing and repairing the WPW. She is especially grateful for the compassionate care she received while her son was in the Intensive Care Unit.
"A very special thanks to Eugene (Vallely) and all of the nurses in ICU and IVU, who are the kindest, warmest, most competent and most caring staff I have ever met," said Alisa. "I think of them everyday."
Cody had this to say to his caregivers at Doylestown Hospital: "I would like to thank you for giving me a renewal at life and for giving me the opportunity to experience college and everything else that is in my future. I was in the absolute right place at the right time. I cannot thank all of you enough. You are all amazing."
Cody and his mother were joined by Doylestown Hospital EP specialist Robert Sangrigoli, MD, and Eugene Vallely, RN, to share this amazing story on the Good Day Philadelphia show on Fox 29.
Click this link to watch the Good Day Philadelphia video clip.