Friday, July 16, 2010

MGH residents and fellows make great save during soccer game

LIFE-SAVERS: Some of the MGH residents who helped save Robinson's life. From left, Thomas, Soverow, Jena, Pham and Zilinski

SPAIN MAY HAVE WON the World Cup, but a team of MGH medical residents and fellows had a victory of their own on the soccer field this summer when they helped save the life of another player.

One afternoon in May, C. Robinson was playing a game of soccer with a men's team at the Harvard Athletic Complex. Robinson, an avid athlete, trains year-round for skiing, soccer and triathlons, so what happened next came as a total surprise. As the game was coming to an end he collapsed without warning.

"My memory is that I was reaching over, but that's it. My teammates said it looked like I was just sitting down on the field," he said.

That's exactly how Tommy T. Thomas, MD, PhD, a Neurology fellow, describes the scene. Thomas was playing on the opposing team when he saw Robinson "lay down on the turf." One of his teammates called him over, and when they could not find a pulse, Thomas started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

On a neighboring soccer field, a team of MGH residents also were in the middle of a game and watched the incident unfold. Sonali Paul, MD, one of the medical residents, said she and her teammates ran over and formed a line behind Thomas to relieve each other when one got tired from performing chest compressions.

Bapu Jena, MD, PhD, another medical resident, ran to get the complex's automated defibrillator. Paul administered the first shock, and Thomas gave a second in an attempt to restore Robinson's pulse.

"Our team and everyone there was stunned by what happened," says Paul. "But it was a great display of teamwork on the field. Everything happened just as it would have in the hospital."

When the ambulance arrived Robinson was still unconscious, but emergency medical technicians found a weak pulse before rushing him to a nearby hospital. Those who had come to Robinson's aid were left to wonder how he would fare.

Paul found out two days later when Robinson was transferred to the Cardiac Step-Down Unit at MGH, the same unit on which she and two of the other residents on the soccer team work.

"They all came in to see how I was doing," says Robinson, who has been recovering steadily. "It was great to meet them and thank them for what they did."

As a result of his cardiac arrest, Robinson underwent a procedure to receive an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, a small device used in patients at risk of sudden cardiac death that can detect and treat abnormal heart rhythms. He started working with a personal trainer in mid-June to get back in shape for a triathlon this summer and credits Matthew Nippins, PT, DPT, CCS, an MGH senior physical therapist, with helping him get back in shape.

In addition to Thomas, Paul and Jena, Robinson thanks each of the residents on the field who helped save his life, including Krishna Reddy, MD, Jodi Zilinski, MD, Jon Soverow, MD, and Neil Ahluwalia, MD, all medical residents; Julien Pham, MD, a Renal Unit fellow; Sarah Psutka, MD, Urology resident; and Andrew Delemos, MD, a Gastrointestinal Unit fellow.

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