Dr. Fisgus Saves Life
Back from the dead: Hospital revives woman

Courtesy of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Diane Sholley, Staff Writer

Thursday, August 04, 2005 - Dr. James Fisgus wouldn't quit.

He flew into action the moment a 63-year-old woman was brought into the emergency department at San Antonio Community Hospital in Upland.

She wasn't breathing. Her heart had stopped beating. She was, in fact, clinically dead. Fisgus didn't know her name, where she came from, what she did for a living - anything at all about her, really. None of that mattered to him. He - and a medical team of nurses, technicians and paramedic/firefighters - simply wanted to bring her back.

It took 45 minutes of constant CPR, electric shock therapy and powerful drug injections, but the team saved Gay Hamm.

Still, Fisgus wasn't happy. "I walked away dejected," Fisgus said. "I thought, "Now I've really done it. I resuscitated her to be brain dead.'

"I knew what 45 minutes in her condition meant. I knew this would be someone on a ventilator, but I had no choice. I have to do all I can do for my patients, then it's up to God. I thought she would probably pass away in the night." She didn't.

Fisgus was sitting at his desk when a nurse came to tell him his patient's eyes were moving. "I told her that it was probably a reflex," he said. "She came back a little while later and said she was moving her head."

Fisgus went to see her for himself.

"I was at her door and saw she was grasping her husband's shoulder," he said. "I walked in her room and she asked me, "Who are you?' I answered "One of your doctors.' At that moment I knew we had done something special." Besides some short-term memory loss and some sluggish motor functions, Hamm is doing remarkably well.

Gay Hamm with Dr. James Fisgus
She doesn't remember anything about what happened May 22, but her husband, John, has filled her in on the details. "We landed at Ontario Airport, just back from a vacation in China, and Gay wasn't feeling well," John Hamm said.

They'd been home about 45 minutes when Gay, who has a history of heart problems, collapsed in the living room. John called 911. "They were there in under two minutes," John said. "They started working on her right away. Everything was so quick. I think she died at home."

Upland paramedic/firefighter Jeff Schneider, Capt. Joel Cascadden and engineer Tom Torrey arrived first. AMR Ambulance Paramedic Mike Riley followed shortly. "We found Mrs. Hamm unconscious," Schneider said. "She was barely breathing and had no pulse. The crew and myself placed her on ground, started CPR and defibrillated her four times. I intubated her. Basically, she was clinically dead."

By the time Gay Hamm reached San Antonio Community Hospital, the team had been working on her close to 20 minutes. Fisgus was concerned. He knew without something being done in the first five minutes, the brain starts to die.

"The paramedics did a fantastic job," Fisgus said. "But at that time, I didn't know if there was much hope." "She was absolutely blue," emergency department nurse Jo Foley said. "Her eyes were open and staring, her pupils not responding. By all appearances, there was no sign of life.

"To see her now, well, it's a miracle." The emergency room team went into action, with no results after about 15 minutes of work on Hamm. Fisgus could have stopped then - a decision that would have been medically appropriate, Foley said - but he was sporadically seeing some rhythm in Hamm's heart.

"She would come back, just for a moment, and I knew I couldn't stop," Fisgus said. "We shocked her again. After about 45 minutes of working on her went by, I looked at the nurse and said enough. But then I looked at the monitor and saw rhythm started. So I said "Let's keep going.' We were giving her powerful medications, and finally we got a pulse." Some of Fisgus' team members believe the recovery a miracle, but Fisgus disagrees.

"It's not a miracle," he said. "It's the result of science, good hard work, trained people and good circumstances. Everyone did a perfect job. The nurses had the IV started in 60 seconds." Fisgus gave high praise to the paramedics and their quick response time, which he called vital to Gay Hamm's prognosis.

"The paramedics knew exactly what they were doing," he said. "Everyone did a spectacular job. This is an unusually good outcome. I can't explain it."

Gay and John Hamm returned to the hospital about a month later. She wanted to thank those who saved her life, including Fisgus, Schneider, emergency room technician Edward Delaney, Foley and fellow nurses Shelly Housh and Zorica Protic, and charge nurse Alicia Stout. "They're all my heroes," Gay Hamm said. "I can't thank them enough."

She then related a dream she had a few weeks before her collapse.

"My mother and grandmother, who are both deceased, came to me and wanted me to go with them," she said.

"I said no. I still had things to do here."

Diana Sholley can be reached at (909) 483-8542 or by e-mail at d_sholley@dailybulletin.com.

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Photos Courtesy of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

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