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Thanks to hospital staff and resident, patient became “one in a million”


When a patient on his way to an appointment collapsed on the sky walk from the Air Rights Garage, staff jumped in to help, including (l-r): Sean Lisse, MD, Kristen Clark, RN, and Marie Musco, RN. Missing from the photo is Kevin Burns, PA-C.

Yale New Haven Hospital staff are used to dealing with the unexpected – even when it occurs in an unexpected place.

That happened on a Monday in March, when Alan Curtis parked in the Air Rights Garage, on his way to a cardiac catheterization appointment. He and his wife, Margaret, were walking down the sky walk from the garage to the hospital when Alan suddenly collapsed.

Radiology resident Sean Lisse, MD, who happened to be behind the couple, ran over, performed a rapid examination and began CPR. Kristen Clark, RN, patient service manager in the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital Emergency Department, was on her way in to work and came over to help. She rotated with Dr. Lisse in performing CPR while Marie Musco, RN, Children’s Pre-Anesthesia Visit, called 911 (since the garage bridge is technically off the hospital campus). She relayed information from Margaret to first responders.

Clark handed her phone to a bystander who called Protective Services to request an AED – a portable defibrillator. When it arrived, Kevin Burns, PA-C, a physician associate in the adult Emergency Department, who was also on his way in to work, used the AED to shock Alan’s heart and get a pulse.

Alan was transported to the Emergency Department, stabilized, then brought to the cardiac catheterization lab, where he was defibrillated multiple times before having a stent placed. He is now recovering at home.

“The cardiologist said it’s a miracle he’s alive, and that he’s one in million patients who survive such an incident,” Clark said. “The doctor attributed it to the rapid and effective administration of CPR by our staff.”

YNHH Protective Services is working with the New Haven Parking Authority, which owns the garage, to have an AED installed in the garage office. For now, those involved in the recent incident were glad they were in the right place at the right time.

“Many things came together in an amazing way that day,” Clark said. “It made me proud to work here.”

Alan said he wouldn’t have been at the hospital that day if his boss hadn’t talked him out of retirement. She convinced him to continue working per diem, which required him to get a physical and see his cardiologist. A cardiac stress test revealed a blockage in an artery, which prompted the cardiac catheterization appointment.

“The good Lord was watching over me,” Alan said. “I’m so grateful to everyone at the hospital. They really, truly, saved my life.”