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Format: 04/17/2014
Format: 04/17/2014


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: A newsmaker you should know: Medic One helps Export woman survive against the odds

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

By Kate Luce Angell
Patty Storm knew there was something wrong as soon as she straightened up and felt the terrible pain in her chest.

"There was no warning, it was just like a hatchet to the sternum," said the Export resident about that Feb. 17 evening. "I yelled to my husband to call 911, got myself into the kitchen and fell on the floor. And that's the last thing I remember."

Mrs. Storm, 52, had just returned home from a computer course she was taking at Westmoreland County Community College and was leaning down to check the snow melt under her vehicle in her attached garage.

She and the Murrysville Medic One ambulance crew who arrived eight minutes later assumed she was having a heart attack. They didn't know her condition was far more serious.

Mrs. Storm had had an aortic dissection, a sudden rip in the heart's most important vessels, an event that has a mortality rate as high as 80 percent to 98 percent.

"I've been a paramedic for 26 years, and I've seen some aortic dissections," said Darrick Gerano, 41, of Penn Township, the Medic One administrative director, who went on the call to help Mrs. Storm.

"But all the rest I've learned about from the autopsy reports. This was the first time I've seen a positive outcome."

First on the scene were Jennifer Edder, who had received her paramedic's license 10 days earlier, and emergency medical technician Brooke Lauffer.

Ms. Edder, 27, of North Apollo, had been an EMT for four years before being certified as a paramedic. But she said she realized quickly Mrs. Storm's condition was something special.

"The chest compression, nausea and radiating jaw pain she was feeling were classic heart attack symptoms," Ms. Edder said. "But the heart monitor wasn't showing much, which was odd for someone in so much pain. And we couldn't get her pressure up."

She called for backup, and Mr. Gerano, paramedic Jerry Chellman, EMTs Steve Mcilrath and Rocky Rzodkiewicz responded, along with a fire truck needed to clear the heavy snow blocking ambulance access to the home.

Mr. Chellman, 51, of Greensburg, said Mrs. Storm's low blood pressure seemed to indicate "she was bleeding out somewhere, but we couldn't find where."

While Ms. Edder and the emergency medical team administered fluids and medicine, trying to stabilize Mrs. Storm, they called ahead to the Forbes Campus of West Penn Hospital, in Monroeville, so a cardiac physician would be ready to examine her.

Upon Mrs. Storm's arrival, cardiac physician Dr. Paul Kleist administered tests that showed her aortic dissection.

She was immediately taken into surgery for a double bypass to repair the 4-inch tear in her aorta, an eight-hour procedure performed by cardiac surgeon David Haybron.

Dr. Michael Culig, chief of cardiac surgery at West Penn's Ed Dardanell Heart and Vascular Center, said several things were unusual about Mrs. Storm's case, while other circumstances fell into place that helped Mrs. Storm survive.

 To read more, visit the Post-Gazette website. 

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