It was not yet 6:30 in the morning on April 19, and security officer Rick Ardis had already begun his work day. In the administration building near Sharp Memorial Hospital, Ardis was helping a new employee get her first Sharp ID badge.
In her office nearby, Mary Scarlett, a nurse practitioner with the hospital’s cardiovascular team, was one of the only other people in the building. “I like to show up early,” says Scarlett, thinking back on that day. “I get a lot done in the quiet of the morning, before everyone else arrives.”
Suddenly, Scarlett heard a Code Blue being called overhead. Someone had collapsed in the administration building.
As she left her office to investigate, Scarlett heard a commotion in the lobby. Ardis was on the ground behind the front desk. Rushing to his side, Scarlett quickly assessed him and realized he was having a heart attack. Someone had brought the automatic external defibrillator (AED) — a portable electronic device used to diagnose life-threatening heart rhythms and treat them with an electrical shock — from the hallway. Scarlett turned it on and began CPR.
“I never imagined I’d be the one using that AED, especially not on someone I work beside each day,” she says.
With the paramedics on their way, Scarlett and others worked to revive Ardis. “We did CPR and used the AED to shock him three times,” she says. “He was without oxygen the whole time. It wasn’t looking good.”
After several minutes, paramedics Ivan Kargbo and Moras Alfaro arrived. They took over the CPR and, getting a pulse, were finally able to transport Ardis to the Sharp Memorial emergency department. His prognosis continued to be grim.
“We were really worried,” says Janie Kramer, chief operating officer of Sharp Memorial. “We weren’t sure he would wake up, and we were concerned that if he did, he’d have long-term brain damage from the lack of oxygen.”
Unconscious and unresponsive, Ardis was put on therapeutic hypothermia treatment designed to preserve brain function in heart attack patients. Cool fluids were pumped into his veins for 48 hours, lowering his core body temperature by about six degrees. After two months in the hospital, he had improved enough for doctors to take him into surgery for a coronary artery bypass.
“It was a long road,” says Scarlett. “But I’m so glad to say he recovered and we were ultimately able to send him home.”
Two months later, a grateful Ardis was back at the hospital to honor Scarlett with a special gift. Sharp’s Guardian Angel Program allows patients to pay tribute to their caregivers while supporting Sharp HealthCare Foundation with a donation. At a celebration attended by the paramedics and others who cared for Ardis, Scarlett was presented with her Guardian Angel pin.
“She was my guardian angel that day,” says Ardis. “And there are many more who are responsible for me being here today. I don’t remember any of it, but I’m grateful to them all.”
“He was fortunate,” says Scarlett. “This happened in a place with the right equipment and people who knew how to use it and perform CPR. Somewhere else, the outcome could have been very different.”
Become a lifesaver by learning CPR. Find out about classes available through Sharp’s Cardiac Training Center.