Standing before an audience of doctors, nurses and staff, Mark Aldrich began his story: “I died last year and these folks,” he said, gesturing to the conference room crowd, “saved my life.”
Aldrich, a 44 year-old technology lawyer, had a major heart attack on July 21, 2014 after stepping off a train at the Lawrence Caltrain station. He credits the swift actions of a fellow passenger, Sunnyvale Public Safety teams, and the doctors and nurses at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara for saving his life.
Exactly one year later, Aldrich and his wife Amy returned to the hospital to thank all those who had helped in his recovery. He didn’t meet all of them during his hospital stay, he said, but on this day he wanted to thank everyone.
“I have no memory of the event,” said Aldrich. All he remembered was waking up “in what I learned was the Kaiser Santa Clara Intensive Care Unit and a nurse was calmly telling me where I was and that I had a heart attack. His voice was so calm and confident. He put me at ease and allowed me to be calm. From that moment, I knew I would be OK.”
Aldridge was in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, a specialty care unit for heart attack patients. Kaiser Permanente’s heart recovery team, as Aldrich calls them, were able to stabilize his heart and put him on the path to a full recovery.
In the ICU Aldrich learned what happened. He had collapsed on the station platform after getting off his train. A fellow passenger, a former Emergency Medical Tech, caught him as he fell. She recognized his symptoms and immediately started CPR.
“I was extremely fortunate because she never usually took that train to work, and just happened to be there,” Aldrich said. He also learned that another traveler retrieved the station’s Automatic Electronic Defibrillator, attached it to Aldrich, and took over CPR until the first responders arrived.
“I’ve never been able to track down and thank that one Good Samaritan with the AED,” Aldrich said. “Nobody could describe the man. Even more strange was that nobody saw where he came from and, when Public Safety arrived, nobody saw him leave. I still don’t know who he was,” he said.
Sunnyvale Public Safety arrived in three and a half minutes, Aldrich was told. They continued the CPR until Aldrich arrived at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara emergency room, where a team of doctors, nurses, and techs sprang into action to keep his heart beating and restart his breathing.
Clinical Nurse Educator Lora Glasgow was in the emergency room the day Aldrich was rushed in. “We knew that he had been down for more than 30 minutes, so we worked quickly,” she said. “We decided to send Mark to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, where another team was ready to re-open the heart arteries [that] were blocked.”
Glasgow accompanied Aldrich to the Cath Lab, where he received four stints to restore his blood supply. She continued to follow Mark’s case throughout his hospital stay, checking in with his family when they arrived at the hospital. It was Glasgow who helped coordinate Aldrich’s return visit, exactly one year after his heart attack.
“It was such a good outcome for Mark and life-changing for our team here,” said Glasgow. “He told us he wanted to meet more of the talented and dedicated team who brought him through his heart attack. He said he wanted to make sure we knew how much we are appreciated.”
At the reunion, Emergency Department Chief Dr. Joel Levis thanked Aldrich for sharing the story of his recovery with the hospital team.
“He looks great. His coming back shows us we’re doing the right things,” said Dr. Levis. “I believe our collaboration and teamwork made all the difference for Mark.”
“Imagine my good fortune of suffering a major heart attack less than two miles from what I later learned was the best cardiac intervention team in the Bay Area,” said Aldrich.