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David Van Heel

A new year, a revived heart

David (left) and Baron Van Heel are grateful for the life-saving care David received after suffering cardiac arrest on Jan. 1, 2014.CentraCare Health – Melrose hailed the New Year in a big way. Before the sun rose on Jan. 1, 2014, hospital staff snatched Grey Eagle native David Van Heel, 67, from the grips of prolonged cardiac arrest.

Baron Van Heel, 21, raced his dad to the hospital in Melrose citing chest pains. After an EKG indicated a heart attack, staff initiated STEMI-SC, CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center’s rapid transfer program. One phone call to the STEMI-SC number triggers a step-by-step protocol that results in prompt transfer of heart attack victims to one of four cardiac catheterization laboratories at St. Cloud Hospital.

“They were calling the cath lab when suddenly Dad just fell over backward, and his face went white. And he ... well, he died then,” Baron said. “I screamed for help, and the nurses came running in and started CPR immediately, put oxygen on him, used the defibrillator a few times, everything.”

After 35 minutes of manual compressions, Certified Nurse Practitioner Sheila Wing approached Baron with a disconcerting prognosis. She said the chances of a comeback were slim, and even then, severe brain damage was nearly certain.

“I just told them to keep trying. If there’s any chance at all, don’t stop,” Baron said. “I was not ready to be without a dad. I don’t want to knowwhat it’s like without him anytime soon.”

When the helicopter arrived, the medical team hooked David to the LUCAS™ 2 Chest Compression System, which pumps blood into the brain and heart more efficiently than manual compressions. After another 19 minutes of compressions, David’s heart resumed the fight.

Patient Stories

Read other stories of patient's courage and their care at CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center at St. Cloud Hospital.

Moments later, the Life Link helicopter was bound for St. Cloud Hospital. Upon arrival, a 100 percent artery blockage prompted Cardiologist Bernard Erickson, MD, to insert a single stent — not far from the two that were inserted 13 years prior. David is a four-time heart attack survivor.

David was moved to the Cardiac Care Unit where he was put into a medically induced coma to preserve brain function. Staff then administered therapeutic hypothermia, cooling David’s body to 92.3 degrees for 24 hours and rewarming him over a 12-hour period.

Few patients make a complete recovery after more than 30 minutes of unconsciousness, but David’s heart, brain and kidneys sustained no apparent damage — an exceptionally rare outcome.

Since its beginning in 2004, more than 3,000 patients from 25 hospitals within 100 miles of St. Cloud have benefited STEMI-SC. The program’s success rate for opening arteries exceeds99  percent.

“The quicker we diagnose, stabilize, transport and open arteries, the more heart muscle and lives we can save,” said Cardiologist Richard Aplin, MD, STEMI-SC medical director at the CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center. “I’m proud of the dedication shown by everyone involved. Staff devote their lives to this program, being on call 24 hours a day, every day, including weekends and holidays.”