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A heartwarming patient testimonial from Ernesto Ruiz: miracles do exist

Inspiring Stories

It started as a routine night out. May 16, 2015 – to be exact. Just two brothers out for a good meal and the time and leisure to catch up with what was happening, had been happening, in each other’s lives. Around 10:30 p.m., Ernesto Ruiz started to experience a series of chest pains, he broke out in a cold sweat, his breath shallow. Asked by his concerned brother what was going on, Ernesto responded with a less than convincing “not well” and a wave of his hand. He walked outside the restaurant they were in to get a bit of fresh air. One of

waitresses followed him out to see if he wanted her to call 9-1-1. Ernesto suggested they call his nephew, who could bring him his meds and drive them all home.

Once the nephew got there, they decided to look for any nearby clinic that was still open. After two tries, the brother suggested they look for the nearest hospital in the area. Thankfully, White Memorial popped up as the first search entry on their cell phone – a medical center they’d all heard about but had never had the opportunity, or immediate need, to take advantage of.

In our Emergency Department Ernesto was asked his name, address, telephone number, emergency contact, next of kin. That’s all he remembers – until he woke up, hours later, a lifetime later, so it

would seem, in a hospital room with a breathing tube in his throat, an IV attached to one arm, and doctors, nurses and the worried smiles of his family all in attendance. His heart, someone told him, had stopped beating for five to six minutes due to, he was told later on, ventricular fibrillation.

Fibrillation is an uncontrolled and ineffective quivering of muscle fibers (fibrils). When it occurs in the lower chambers of the heart, it is called ventricular fibrillation – a juddering of muscles during which blood is not pumped through the heart. Under such condition a person suddenly collapses, turns deadly white, and has no detectable pulse, heartbeat or blood pressure. Basically, Ernesto was clinically dead. When vital organs – heart, brain, kidneys – stop receiving enough blood, sudden cardiac death is known to result.

Such was not to be. A team of at least 20 emergency personnel did what they had been trained to do – restore blood flow to Ernesto’s heart and body to prevent damage to his brain and other organs.

Two days later he was in surgery where a cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) was implanted near his left collarbone – with electrode-tipped wires running through his veins to his heart – a medical device, the literature tells us, more effective than drugs for preventing a fatal heart arrhythmia.

There is the play of chance or luck in life. The likelihood that White Memorial Medical Center was the first search item that showed up when they looked for the nearest emergency room upon first signs of Ernesto's chest pain. The further likelihood that they made it here on time before the onset of fatal ventricular fibrillation. Then there’s the simple fact in which luck or chance play no part: a group of trained medical professionals with the remarkable skill and insight to understand what needed to be done in order to save Ernesto's life. If you were to ask Ernesto he would tell you, “I believe that this happened to me for a reason. God doesn't make mistakes.”

Ernesto wishes to thank, among others, Dr. Mel Webb and the ED care team who quickly responded when he came in with v-fib, Drs. Miguel Salazar, Jewell G. Parilla, Shubert H. Palmer,

Arturo R. Vega, Edward G. Carbonell, and the nameless other nurses and caregivers who “saved his life.”

“I was looked after,” he tells us, “by angels.” Of that, he has little doubt. And he prays to God that “He keep informing their lives and clarifying their mission." The work that they did was “without exception a labor of love.” Of that, we have little doubt.