8600 Old Georgetown Road | Bethesda, MD 20814

New Directions

Issue: Spring

911 + Code Heart = Life

Most people may remember January 26, 2011 for the ice and snow that turned the evening commute into massive gridlock, with some drivers abandoning cars and continuing home on foot.


Mel Newman will remember it as the day he had a massive heart attack. Despite the odds, he made it to Suburban Hospital where the Code Heart team was waiting for him.


The Call


When EMS called in, Dr. Philip Strauss, Suburban Hospital’s chairman of emergency medicine, asked, “Are you sure it’s a heart attack?”


As soon as he heard the answer, “Doc, I’m sure,” Dr. Strauss immediately activated Code Heart, which calls together a team of doctors, nurses and technicians trained to work on STEMI—ST Elevated Myocardial Infarction, or heart attack patients. ST elevation is a change on the electrocardiogram (EKG) that indicates blockage of a coronary artery, interrupting the blood supply to the heart. Unless blood flow is restored within 90 minutes from the patient’s heart attack diagnosis in the hospital, the heart may undergo irreparable damage or stop beating altogether, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).


Given what he knew about Mel Newman’s condition and the conditions outside, Dr. Strauss wondered if they would possibly make it to the hospital in time.


The Code Heart Team


Every day at Suburban, medical professionals are on call for Code Heart, either stationed at the hospital or prepared to go as soon as they learn a STEMI patient is in the hospital or on the way. Fortunately for Newman, the Code Heart team stayed at the hospital that day after an earlier procedure, realizing that they would be hard-pressed to get back should a call come in.


There that night were nurses Rashmi Sumen and Regina Deible, and cardio vascular techs Theresa Henson and Terrence Lattimore. Drs. Greg Kumkumian and Allen Nimetz, both interventional cardiologists, responded to the Code

Heart call.


“We saw Mr. Newman’s stats from the field, and we were pretty certain he would go straight to the cath lab,” Sumen said. The “cath” lab is the catheterization lab where patients undergo a procedure to unblock the artery or arteries and restore blood

flow to the heart.


Earlier that Evening…


At their home in North Bethesda, Linda Newman was baking cookies while Mel was outside shoveling snow. When Linda found Mel back inside, complaining of pressure on his chest and difficulty breathing, she called 911.


There was no ambulance close-by, so the Emergency Communications Center dispatched a fire engine with a crew of three on board, including Paramedic Captain Dwayne Dutrow. They arrived and immediately hooked Newman up to a portable EKG machine with defibrillator and oxygen, gave him aspirin, administered nitroglycerin, started an IV and called Suburban Hospital on the EMS line. 


First responders are trained that communication with the hospital, along with quick transport, on-site interpretation and early medical intervention, such as giving aspirin,

can mean the difference between life and death for heart attack victims.


Not typically used for patient transport, the crew had no choice but to take Newman to the hospital on the fire truck.


At Suburban Hospital


When Engine 723 rolled up to the front of Suburban Hospital, the Code Heart team was waiting outside. Mr. Newman was whisked inside by emergency department staff and placed on a heart monitor. He was having a massive heart attack! Sumen, standing by, took Newman to the cath lab where doctors opened up his artery and restored blood flow to his heart. 


“In a night that seemed to take people forever to get anywhere, it took the Code Heart team only 29 minutes to restore blood flow to Mr. Newman’s heart,” said Melody Knapp, cardiovascular service line director at Suburban. “This is well within the 90 minute AHA guideline and a testament to our Code Heart team and why Suburban Hospital has been designated a Cardiac Interventional Center.”


Everyone agrees that it was the skill of these first responders, combined with Code Heart’s efficiency and speed that have given Mel Newman much more time to enjoy his wife’s cookies and their life together.



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