Impella Technology Saves Annandale Woman After Cardiac Arrest

“It’s hard to believe it happened because I don’t feel like it happened. I realize I’m just a very lucky lady.”

Sudden hiccups that wouldn’t go away were Cindy Miessen’s sign that something wasn’t right. Little did the Annandale resident know it was the beginning of cardiac arrest and she’d soon benefit from new Impella technology that would help save her life.

“You know how you hold your breath to get your hiccups to stop,” Cindy asked. “I was doing that kind of stuff, and it just wasn’t working.”

Cindy and Jerry at the birth of their twin grandsons.
Cindy and Jerry at the birth of their twin grandsons.

It was Sunday night on Oct. 16, 2022, when the 65-year-old grandmother of four had been experiencing persistent hiccups for roughly 10 minutes. Cindy was hesitant to wake her husband, Jerry, who had to be up early for work the next day. Uncertainty got the best of her, and she decided to seek his help.

When she woke up her husband, she remembers not being able to breathe and gasping for air. Not knowing what was happening, the couple decided to call 911. She heard Jerry give the emergency operator their address, and that’s the last thing she remembers before going unresponsive.

When first responders arrived, they started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). “My family told me I died three times. On the way to the hospital paramedics were trying to intubate me and were unsuccessful,” Cindy revealed.

Cindy’s family arrived at CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital and was escorted into a room where a chaplain was waiting. “My husband explained that our son was in Colorado hunting and asked if he should come home. A doctor told our son to get home as soon as possible, flying rather than driving.”

CentraCare Cardiologist Stephen Kidd, MD, met with her family. Because her situation was so serious, he explained they were going to use an Impella to help support Cindy’s heart function by pumping blood out of her heart to the rest of her body.

The world’s smallest heart pump, the Impella gives the left ventricle a break so it can recover more quickly, and it provides the body with the right amount of blood flow when your heart isn’t working properly.

“Dr. Kidd told my family it goes up into the heart and has a fan that helps distribute blood. He kept it simple, and that’s about all we knew about it,” Cindy admitted.

“The Impella device is a remarkable technology that allows us to temporarily support most of the function of the heart in situations like this where people’s hearts need time to rest and recover,” said Dr. Kidd. “That is exactly what happened to Cindy. After we were able to restore blood flow to her heart, with time, her heart function improved, and we were able to remove the temporary heart pump.”

Dr. Kidd and Cindy recently met again at a reunion for Impella patients.
Dr. Kidd and Cindy recently met again
at a reunion for Impella patients.

CentraCare Heart & Vascular has been an early adapter of this technology and works very closely with the medical industry to continue to improve the device design and features and educate physicians about its appropriate use.

During her 10-day hospital stay, Cindy’s care team realized she was in kidney failure and needed dialysis. They were tasked with figuring out if the two health issues were linked.

“I had many doctors working on me. They wanted to know if it was my heart that caused my kidneys to fail, so they were all working together.”

In the end, Cindy was able to recover the function of all her organs, including her heart.

Dr. Kidd said, “She is a great patient with great family. And she certainly had some luck on her side that day, but the teamwork of all the staff, not just the doctors, is why she made her remarkable recovery. None of this is possible without the excellent team like the one we have at St. Cloud Hospital.”

Cindy’s Impella was removed before she was discharged, and she was able to recover at home.

Unbeknownst to Cindy, she’d been living with severe heart disease for a while. CentraCare Cardiovascular Surgeon Nathaniel John Castro, MD, performed a scheduled triple bypass surgery in January 2023. It’s an open-heart procedure that unblocks three major arteries in the heart often due to plaque build-up. “He was so awesome, just the nicest, humblest man ever. It went well.”

Following that seven-day hospital stay, Cindy underwent several weeks of outpatient cardiac rehabilitation.

Today, Cindy says she’s doing great and praises her care team and Impella. “I’m thankful they weren’t afraid to use it; they had it and it worked. I don’t understand why all major hospitals don’t have this available to them.”

With her doctor’s approval, she is planning to take a trip to the Dominican Republic this March.

“It’s hard to believe it happened because I don’t feel like it happened. I get tidbits from my family, and I realize I’m just a very lucky lady. Every day is a gift no matter what,” she affirmed.