Raheem's Story

Bystander CPR Saves 25-Year-Old After Collapse at Basketball Court

Seconds before going into cardiac arrest after a basketball game with friends at Case Western Reserve University, Raheem Stanfield told a friend he might need an ambulance.

A passing neurosurgery resident dashed over to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to the 25-year-old CWRU alumnus, the first step in a complex process of perfusing the heart until paramedics arrived to rush him to University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. In the few months prior, he had experienced episodes of heart palpitations that brought him to his knees, but nothing like this.

“When Raheem arrived in the Emergency Department, he did not have a pulse, but we kept pushing,” said Christopher N. Miller, MD, Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UH Cleveland Medical Center, who with his team brought Stanfield back to life that Friday evening. “Raheem’s case illustrates perfectly the premium everyone should place on bystander CPR in the prehospital setting. If he had not received high-quality CPR prior to his arrival in the Emergency Department, he would not be alive to tell his story.”

All Ohio students, starting with the 2017-18 school year, are required to learn CPR and use of the automated external defibrillator (AED) under a new law passed in 2016 by the Ohio General Assembly.

Intensive Care

Stanfield was transferred to the Coronary Intensive Care Unit at UH Cleveland Medical Center. There his body was cooled for 24 hours under a hypothermia protocol intended to reduce inflammation and damage to the brain brought on by the arrest. When Stanfield’s temperature was restored to normal and he woke up, doctors found left-sided weakness indicative of a stroke.

They also found that his heart looked structurally sound but were concerned about an electrical malfunction, according to Judith Mackall, MD, a cardiologist specializing in electrophysiology. Dr. Mackall implanted a defibrillator in Stanfield that would shock his heart back into rhythm in the event of another arrhythmia.

“We know that once you’re in cardiac arrest, your chance of surviving drops 10 percent for every minute you’re down,” Dr. Mackall said. “CPR keeps your vital organs perfused until you can restore heart rhythm. Raheem’s saving grace is that he had immediate initiation of CPR.”

Walking, Smiling Again

Six weeks after his cardiac arrest, Stanfield walked out of University Hospitals Parma Medical Center, following intensive inpatient therapy in the Acute Rehabilitation Unit. His parents chose UH Parma Medical Center’s highly regarded unit for its accreditation and experienced staff, despite its distance from their Cleveland home. Stanfield was making plans with his parents and three siblings for a special birthday celebration on Christmas Day. He couldn’t wait to return to his new job as a treasury specialist at Medical Mutual.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, something can happen to you,” says Stanfield, who spent four hours each day for three weeks receiving speech, physical and occupational therapies. “All you can do is stay positive, keep working and keep fighting.”

Prior to his cardiac arrest in October, the only warning signs Stanfield experienced were exercise-induced asthma and heart palpitations. He had consulted a primary care physician, but an echocardiogram and cardiac event monitor worn for a period of time did not catch any of these elusive cardiac episodes.

Stanfield continued regular basketball games with his friends and siblings, including several CWRU alumni. He was in the right place at the right time when crisis struck that night.

“The reason Raheem is alive is because of the outstanding teamwork of bystanders and prehospital providers in the field,” says Dr. Miller. “His outcome is the direct result of the tremendous effort and collaboration by the continuum of multidisciplinary UH providers.

“From the Emergency Department to our critical care unit, medical floor and acute rehabilitation arenas, Raheem and his family were able to celebrate the holidays because these teams work tirelessly. Together, as one, we can drive outcomes.”

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