Cardiac Rehab Team Springs Into Action

Northwestern Medicine
Cardiology August 16, 2016
Jim Atkinson is a longtime fan of Northwestern Medicine cardiac care. Since 1993, he has exercised in a supervised setting a few times a week at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Center.

One afternoon, Atkinson was waiting in line at the gym’s café when he suddenly went into cardiac arrest and collapsed. The next six days of his life reinforced his appreciation for Northwestern Medicine healthcare professionals, whose comprehensive care saved his life.

 When Atkinson collapsed, an off-duty Northwestern Medicine physician and nurse from another local hospital were standing right next to him. They immediately started CPR, and the cardiac rehab team quickly came to support with an automated external defibrillator (AED).

Rita Szymanski, BSN, RN, CCRP, clinical coordinator at the Cardiovascular Rehabilitation Center, said the team worked together seamlessly.

“Not only did we provide life-saving support for Jim, but the remaining members of the team managed to maintain safe operation of classes, caring for more than 25 patients without a coordinator, physician or other support team members,” Szymanski says.

After Atkinson was transported to the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Emergency Department, he was stabilized and moved to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (ICU) followed by the Neurology ICU to monitor a head injury from his fall.

Six days later, Atkinson was released from the hospital.

“I was thrilled to be released that specific day,” Atkinson says. “My son was graduating from college, and I was able to watch him at home on a big screen as the ceremony was live-streamed online.”

As Atkinson had follow-up appointments and returned to cardiac rehab, he reflected on the care he received.
“Through this experience and the many years I have worked with the cardiac team, I have found that caregivers across Northwestern Medicine are respectful of privacy and listen to both myself and my advocates when we have questions,” Atkinson says. “I feel blessed.” 

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