Australian Outback nurse self-treats heart attack

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Ryan Franks

What do you do if you’re in the middle of nowhere and you have a heart attack? According to a Live Science report, if you’re a nurse alone in Western Australia, apparently the answer is, save your own life, damn it.

A case report tells the harrowing tale of a nurse who did just that. Ryan Franks, a 44-year-old man, was the only nurse on duty at a small post more than 620 miles (1,000km) from Perth and about 90 miles (150km) from the next nearest medical facility.

All by himself, he attached the leads of an electrocardiogram to his chest and sent the results by email to an emergency physician. The results showed that he had a “complete heart block, right bundle-branch block, hyper-acute T waves in the inferior leads, and reciprocal ST-segment depression in the anterolateral leads,” the researchers wrote.

In other words, the report says, much of his heart had stopped responding properly to nerve impulses telling it to beat, and other parts of the heart were beating poorly. It was a significant, life-threatening heart attack.

Nursing skills kicking into action, Franks inserted needles into the blood vessels on the insides of both his elbows and administered a cocktail of drugs designed to get his blood flowing, his heart beating and his pain within a manageable threshold. It included everything from aspirin to nitroglycerin to opioids.

He also attached “his own defibrillator pads” and got ready to dose himself with adrenaline and other drugs designed to kick a heart back into rhythm.

The report says eventually, Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service arrived and airlifted him to a hospital in Perth. There, doctors found a severe blockage in his mid-right coronary artery, and he underwent surgery. Forty-eight hours later, he was released.

Live Science report
New England Journal of Medicine article

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