He knew the procedure was just a first step in a process, but on June 21, Jeff Isom was expecting to be home the same day he had shoulder replacement surgery.
No one was prepared for him to be fighting for his life that evening.
While in the medical-surgical unit at St. Luke’s Nampa readying to go home following the outpatient surgery, Isom began to have trouble breathing. Soon, he lost consciousness — he was in the early stages of cardiac arrest.
It took a dedicated team jumping into action, combined with a patient who bucked the odds, but Isom today is back living his life just as he was on June 20.
“Even now, it’s still a bit of a mystery how it happened, but I’m still here … no matter what went wrong, everyone there (at St. Luke’s) found a way to fix it,” Isom said. “I must have something more to give. I feel blessed.”
Tammy McFarlane was the crisis nurse that day. She had checked on Isom when he had some breathing concerns but was able to get him comfortable as staff continued to monitor him. About an hour later, she got a call from a nurse saying, “We need you up here now.”
McFarlane was just a minute away. She ran up the stairwell, and by then, CPR had already been administered. It was a “code blue.”
“We performed CPR for 30 minutes; we had multiple team members assisting, taking turns,” McFarlane said. “Usually, if you do it that long, the outcome is rarely good. Sometimes, you may only get them back enough for family to say goodbye.”
Ashley McKinley is a nurse in the emergency department. She was part of that rotation, performing chest compressions on Isom. She noted that even in a stressful situation, she was surrounded by a strong team that included McFarlane, respiratory therapy, a hospitalist, fellow RNs and an emergency physician.
“(He) never entered a shockable rhythm so we were relying solely on our quality of CPR and medications,” McKinley said. “Most people don’t understand the amount of force required to do compressions. It’s exhausting physically and mentally.
“It is pretty rare that we bring someone back after coding them for a prolonged period of time like we did Jeff.”
Isom, who was intubated and sedated, naturally doesn’t remember any of what happened. He said when he woke up, he was surrounded by St. Luke’s team members, all of them mentioning how he defied the odds.
Later, he said family and friends were made aware of the slim likelihood he may ever wake again. His children made the difficult decision to remove life support if his prognosis was not good.
But about 16 hours later, McFarlane was back at work and went to the ICU to check in on Isom. To her surprise, he was sitting up, eating and talking.
“I was like, ‘Well, that’s not him, it couldn’t be — we must have lost him overnight,’” she said. “But I checked with the nurse and she was like, ‘That’s him.’ I just said, ‘No way, that doesn’t happen.’ I told him it was remarkable, and he was so thankful.”
A retired coach and teacher, Isom spent approximately a month recovering at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Boise following a few days at the Nampa medical center. He said follow-ups on his heart have shown no major concerns, he had no brain damage since he was oxygenated during the CPR and continues physical therapy for his shoulder.
“I get to keep spoiling my two grandkids,” Isom said with a laugh. “Everyone kept telling me how it was nothing short of miraculous. I wasn’t awake for it, so I just said, ‘thank you,’ to everyone that came into my room!
“I’m just really appreciative of their skills and all of their efforts to let me still be here.”
McFarlane has experienced many code blues in her role and said, “We had an amazing code team, and it was one of the best and well-run codes I’ve participated in quite a long time.”“I’m so proud of our team … to have a situation like that where the patient has that outcome really helps keep you inspired,” McFarlane said. “We were on cloud nine.”
Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.