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MCHD reunites YMCA employees who sprung into action and saved the life of a Woodlands man




June 13, 2014 – Conroe, Texas – On Friday, June 13, 2014 the Montgomery County Hospital District reunited MCHD Medics and the YMCA employees who saved the life of one of their members at The Woodlands YMCA on Shadowbend.

On May 19, Joseph Pietrzak went to the YMCA fitness center to work out as he did regularly every morning. After using the treadmill, Joseph went to the weight room and began to feel dizzy. A bystander saw Joe collapse and fall to the floor. Joe was not breathing and had no pulse – he had suffered from sudden cardiac death. Frieda Bendeck, a registered nurse just so happened to be working out in the weight room that morning not far from Joe. She ran to Joe and immediately began doing chest compressions. Erin Rochester was working the front desk that day. Just as she was trained to do in a medical emergency, she immediately alerted the team of CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) certified YMCA employees. Deborah Miller and Levita Simmons were at Joe’s side within seconds. Meanwhile, Erin Rochester and Landrum Turner, YMCA Executive Director called 911 to alert EMS and first responders. Deborah took over doing chest compressions, Frieda opened Joe’s airway and got air into his lungs and Levitia applied the AED to Joe’s heart. The AED delivered two shocks and suddenly Joe became alert and started moving. The Woodlands Fire Department and MCHD Medics were there within minutes and rushed Joe to the hospital. “This is a perfect example of the effectiveness of bystander CPR,” said Jennifer Nichols-Contella spokeswoman for MCHD. “The staff at the YMCA did exactly what they were trained to do and Joe will be able to spend Father’s Day with his children and grandchildren because of it. They are true heroes.”

Due to the fast response of the bystanders, Joe had two stents put in his heart and was only in the hospital for a few days.

“My doctor said that my heart is in better shape than it was before the cardiac arrest,” said, Joe. “He said that I was lucky to be at the YMCA that day. I got a clean bill of health at my check up on Friday and I was back working out at on Monday.”

“We were surprised to see him here on Monday so soon after the incident – but we were so happy to see him. He looked so good and healthy,” said Landrum Turner, YMCA Executive Director. “Much different than the last time we saw him – this is an emotional day for all of us.”

OHCA or out of hospital cardiac arrest is among the leading causes of death in adults in the US. Every year, nearly 300,000 such cases are reported and 92% of the patients are confirmed dead. The majority of victims fail to receive any immediate bystander CPR, which is the most important requirement for survival and can also influence the results after a victim is admitted to the hospital. CPR can improve survival by 50% when it is followed by rapid defibrillation. The chance of survival from sudden cardiac arrest decreases by 7-10% for every minute that passes until defibrillation occurs. Defibrillation can be performed by EMS providers, first responders, or bystanders through Public Access Defibrillators or PADs.

It is reported that 88% of medical emergencies occurring from a cardiac arrest happen outside hospital premises, which means within the confines of one’s house or a public place. In these cases, there is no chance of getting immediate response from medical personnel. Unfortunately, only 32% of the patients that suffer from sudden cardiac arrest are given CPR by a bystander at the scene. “It is critical for the public to understand that bystander CPR now consists of chest compressions only which means they do not have to put their mouth on the mouth of a stranger to be a lifesaver,” said Dr. Mark Escott, MD, MCHD Medical Director. “If you do have to do CPR on someone, it is most likely to be on someone that you know.”

Action taken within 2 minutes of a person collapsing due to cardiac arrest is crucial. If a bystander gives CPR within those 2 minutes, the patient can be saved or at least can buy enough time for the professionals to arrive and control the situation. Giving chest compressions in a forceful manner is crucial because a rescuer is able to circulate blood and make it flow in different parts of the organs, especially in the heart and the brain of the victim. “In this circumstance, all the links in the chain of survival occurred: Rapid call to 9-1-1, Rapid bystander CPR, Rapid Defibrillation by PAD defibrillator, rapid arrival by The Woodlands Fire Department and MCHD to provide Advanced Life Support, rapid Transport to Memorial Hermann The Woodlands, and Rapid Definitive care by their Emergency Medicine Physicians and Cardiologists. These great stories do not happen by luck. They happen because this community prepared for this exact scenario and the training and preparation paid off,” said Dr. Escott.

The best way to achieve CPR knowledge is by enrolling in a CPR training and certification program. “This life was saved as a result of planning, training, and preparation – not by chance,” said Jared Cosper, MCHD EMS Director.   “We are working hard to develop CPR education programs to address the specific needs of Montgomery County, and are encouraged by this great outcome.” MCHD provides CPR training for the public as well as The American Heart Association, American Red Cross, and many hospitals and employers. You may view the CPR schedule on MCHD’s website located at or contact Connie Case at [email protected] to enroll.

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