Co-workers spring into action to thwart sudden cardiac arrest

When you meet Cheryl Foster it doesn’t take long to realize she’s a kind and giving person. She’s a devoted mom of three boys. She works with autistic children at a local elementary school. She’s fostered dozens of kittens for the local shelter over the last several years. What you wouldn’t know is that her heart suddenly stopped beating when she was just 41 years old.

Originally from Lewiston/Auburn, Cheryl and her husband moved to Farmington about 6 years ago, after she took a job as an ed tech at Cascade Brook School. She was attending the annual staff training day before the start of the 2017 school year when she collapsed in the bathroom. Luckily one of her colleagues heard her and called for help.

Everyone sprang into action. Someone grabbed the AED (automated external defibrillator). Someone called 9-1-1. Someone found the school nurses who rushed over to start CPR. Research has shown that in cases of sudden cardiac arrest, time is everything. If the patient can receive appropriate care in less than about 2 hours, their chances for a full recovery are greatly improved. Now the race was on to get Cheryl to the closest cardiac center in Lewiston.

The first stage of the race was to get her heart beating again. The AED that was just steps away from where Cheryl collapsed, along with the CPR performed by her colleagues, helped to keep the blood moving through her body. The next stage was the care provided by the North Star ambulance crew who were able to restart Cheryl’s heart with a defibrillator and then placed a breathing tube to make sure her brain continued to receive oxygen. At Franklin Memorial Hospital, the emergency department team had been alerted that Cheryl was on the way and they made the call for LifeFlight.

When the flight crew arrived, they provided another important leg of this race for life: a treatment called targeted temperature management, an evidence-based procedure in which the patient’s core body temperature is cooled by a few degrees. Because Cheryl hadn’t regained consciousness after her heart was restarted, there was a chance that her brain had suffered some damage. Keeping her cool would help improve her chances for a full recovery.

Ater an 18-minute flight, Cheryl was receiving the care she needed from specialists at Central Maine Medical Center. It turned out that there was a problem with the electrical impulses that control her heart’s rhythm. Two weeks later, Cheryl had an ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) surgically placed near her collarbone. The device will constantly monitor her heart beat and deliver lifesaving shocks if a dangerous rhythm is detected. Cheryl was able to return to work shortly after her surgery, grateful to get back to taking care of her foster kittens and spending time with her husband and boys, snowshoeing and hiking around the nearby Sandy River. 

CommSpec Jonathan Roebuck
Pilot Andrew John
Medic Mike Choate
Nurse Patrick Perrault
Orientee Josh Henke