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Patricia Gomez and a friend had just returned from shopping when her husband, Michael Gomez, collapsed onto the floor with a heart attack. The friend, a former gym teacher, performed CPR until the ambulance could arrive. The EMTs then worked on Mr. Gomez for about 10 minutes before rushing him to an emergency department in Barberton, Ohio.

At the ED, Mrs. Gomez discovered a team of people working on a full-court resuscitation effort, including therapeutic hypothermia. But she also experienced something else, something that changed her entire outlook about her ED experience: She was kept in the loop.

“[When I arrived] they were working on him, pumping him and pumping and shocking him, and they called us right into the room,” recalled Mrs. Gomez. “They were encouraging us, but they were telling us what might happen. They didn’t think he was going to make it.”

Because the attending was calm and told Mrs. Gomez everything that was going to happen before they proceeded, she felt as though she gained a small amount of control in an otherwise emotionally chaotic situation. Mrs. Gomez and three other relatives were encouraged to stand directly next to the bed during the resuscitation, a point that left a strong impression on Mrs. Gomez. She remembers that even though there were five individuals working on her husband, “They worked around us and they never told us to move.”

Only when the team began therapeutic hypothermia did the family have to move momentarily. As the team heaped ice on Mr. Gomez’s groin, Mrs. Gomez blurted out, “You’re gonna freeze his balls off!” But because she was kept informed, learning the reasoning behind the induced hypothermia, Mrs. Gomez not only felt OK with this unfamiliar procedure, but she was greatly encouraged.

“We thought [the therapeutic hypothermia] was a good idea,” she said. “I’m sure that’s what saved his life.” Seeing, and understanding, the additional effort being extended to her husband helped reassure Mrs. Gomez that the team was doing everything in its power to bring her husband back.

All in all, Mrs. Gomez was extremely thankful for being allowed to remain so close to the action during the resuscitation, and being fully informed as events progressed. “I think the more communication the better,” said Gomez, whose husband is now making a strong recovery. “They let us ask any questions we wanted, and they answered them. I think that [EPs] should be more open, so families can see. Even though it’s traumatic, we saw them doing everything they could.”

 

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