What began as any other ordinary day for Linda Ferioli was about to change dramatically for the West Springfield woman come sunset.
Linda’s husband Dave and daughter Lexy Ferioli Morin remember it well, but the life and death situation she was about to find herself in is now just a blur to Linda.
The day was Wednesday, January 4, 2023, at 5 p.m.
“Linda had just finished taking a shower and when she came down to the living room I noticed she was sweating. She said it was just her nose running and went into the kitchen to get a tissue. But when she came back into the living room, Linda leaned against the recliner and then collapsed,” Dave said.
Lexy was on a video call with her mom and dad at the time when she saw and heard what she described as “a big huge thud.”
“I told my dad to call 911. I live seconds away from their house and on my way called 911 as well,” she said.
Dave thought his wife had just fainted and was shaking her and yelling her name to no avail. When the dispatcher at the West Springfield Fire Department answered, she had him check for a pulse; there was none. She began to walk him through CPR, keeping him calm throughout the process.
“I never took a CPR class or performed CPR on anyone, but I tightened my fists and began pumping while following the dispatcher’s instructions. She also instructed me to put her head to one side so she wouldn’t choke on her spit. Then my daughter, Lexy, suddenly came flying into the house and took over, doing twice as much pumping as I was,” Dave said.
“She was out for 12 minutes total. One ambulance, a firetruck, and the deputy chief’s car came to the rescue. The paramedics worked on her for 35 minutes between their arrival and leaving. It took them three times to shock her back using the AED (automated external defibrillator),” Dave said.
SON-IN-LAW TO THE RESCUE
The couple’s son-in-law, Zachary Morin, who is Lexy’s husband and a paramedic, was working the night the call came into the firehouse.
“He was upstairs making dinner and heard a familiar voice on the intercom and went flying downstairs where the dispatcher was located. He immediately drove in his own vehicle to the house while talking to Lexy on the phone as she was helping with CPR. He accompanied Linda in the back of the ambulance to comfort her and assist,” Dave said.
After following the ambulance to the Emergency Department at Baystate Medical Center, family members waited anxiously for any word about their loved one.
CPR SAVED HER LIFE
“Two doctors came out at different times to give us updates and told us that Linda would be moved to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Both of them remarked how lucky she was that we were there to administer CPR and they actually thanked us for doing a good job,” Dave said.
After undergoing cardiac catheterization to identify possible heart conditions such as irregular heartbeats or clogged arteries, it was determined that Linda had two blockages: one artery that was 100% blocked and the other 90%.
Her diagnosis resulted in the need for double bypass surgery, which would be performed by cardiac surgeon Dr. Anthony Rousou, yet another coincidence in their story.
A FAMILY FRIEND
“We are very friendly with Dr. Rousou’s father, Dr. John Rousou. Both families are from Cyprus and we belong to a small community of Greek Cypriots in the area and bonded as a result. It was a blessing to have him do my mother’s surgery,” Lexy said.
The now retired Dr. John Rousou, founded Baystate’s cardiac surgery program along with Dr. Richard Engelman back in 1977.
“I knew Tony when he was a little kid, and now here he was about to operate on my wife. His father operated on my father as well as my wife’s father,” Dave said.
Looking back on the case, Dr. Rousou said what was even more concerning to him than the blockage was how poorly Linda’s heart was contracting.
EJECTION FRACTION A CONCERN
A normal ejection fraction - the percentage of the total amount of blood in your heart that is pumped out with each heartbeat - is 60 to 65 percent or higher. Linda’s was barely 10%.
“When your ejection fraction is low, we worry about how well a patient will do after separating them from the heart and lung machine, making bypass surgery very high risk for those patients,” Dr. Rousou said.
“Before deciding to go forward with bypass surgery, we needed to do a viability study. The study involves a cardiac MRI to see if there is enough viable heart muscle left after a heart attack, so that if we improve blood flow through bypass surgery that it would in turn improve her heart function,” he added.
The results showed that bypass surgery would be viable, and Linda’s surgery was successful followed by a two-day stay in the Cardiac ICU and 8 days on the cardiac floor. Linda was then moved to Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Western Mass in Ludlow for another three weeks before returning home on February 10.
A DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT
“We have since seen a dramatic improvement in Linda’s ejection fraction up to 40% from a low of 10% and we expect it will go higher,” Dr. Rousou said.
Looking back at Linda’s family history, her heart problems seemed inevitable. It is well-known that having close blood relatives with heart disease can make you more likely to get heart disease, and Linda’s family has a long history of heart problems including bypass surgery. Also, Linda was being treated by a cardiologist for the past several years for an arrythmia which contributed to her decrease in heart function.
Linda’s life-saving CPR sends an important message to everyone about the need to be prepared.
About 9 in 10 people who suffer cardiac arrest like Linda outside of the hospital die. If performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.
“The fact that Linda had CPR early effectively saved her life. It is remarkable that she came out of the ordeal with no injury to the brain because her heart completely stopped and was not pumping. I’ve seen many patients saved by families administering CPR at home, who would have otherwise died or had a bad outcome if they lived,” Dr. Rousou said.
EVERYONE SHOULD LEARN CPR
“I think it is vitally important for everyone to learn CPR whatever your age. Events like Linda’s happen all the time, anywhere, anyplace from the home to schools to the theater to the mall. It is not very difficult to learn CPR, and if you are trained to do it well there is a good chance that someday you might save someone’s life,” he added.
Lexy, who as an occupational therapist is trained in CPR, agrees.
“I believe adults should learn CPR, especially older folks for whom the risk of heart attack increases, and who would be able to save a loved one if it happens. I’d like to see senior centers everywhere offering classes and having somewhere in the community where teens can learn CPR for free,” Lexy said.
The CDC recommends if you see someone in cardiac arrest - meaning the person is unresponsive, even if you shake or shout at them, and the person isn’t breathing or is only gasping - call 911 right away and begin CPR, continuing until medical professionals arrive.
You don’t need formal training to perform CPR, but it helps. Push down hard and fast in the center of the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 pushes a minute. Let the chest come back up to its normal position after each push. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends timing your pushes to the beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive.” This method of CPR is called “hands-only” and does not involve breathing into the person’s mouth.
Linda had seven broken ribs from the CPR, and additional pain from surgeons cutting through the breastbone to spread her ribs for the surgery.
“I’m still recovering today and sore from the operation. But I’m alive and happy doctors saved me. It was a happy day after I finally returned home from Encompass. I still couldn’t walk at the time, but am now using a walker. I thank everyone for helping me to see another day,” Linda said.