Mt. Laurel Heart Attack Victim Praises Bystanders and First Responders for Saving His Life
Sunday, January 29, 2023
(MARLTON, N.J., January 25, 2023) When Kenneth Hogan ushered in the New Year, the Mount Laurel man thanked several strangers – and a chain of medical professionals – who enabled him to survive a severe heart attack.
The 58-year-old was having breakfast with his wife and adult daughter at a Marlton restaurant in late November 2022, when he suddenly collapsed and became unresponsive. Staff and customers at The Kettle & Grille acted quickly, including a married couple who administered chest compressions.
According to Ken’s doctors, this immediate action from well-meaning and well-trained bystanders likely saved his life. Within a few minutes, several first responders arrived, followed by a Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) from Virtua Health. He was treated at Virtua Marlton Hospital for a major heart attack, and continues to recover – even returning to work recently.
Ken and his family reunited with the restaurant bystanders and medical professionals who kept him alive, to express their gratitude.
“There really are no words other than thank you,” said Ken’s daughter, Dallas Hogan.
“They were not just there for my dad, but for our entire family,” she said of Ken’s care providers – from bystanders to emergency responders to hospital staff. “Having extra time together means everything.”
Although the family didn’t initially know the identities of the Good Samaritans at The Kettle & Grille, a Facebook post by Dallas soon connected those involved.
Ken’s care team credits these quick-thinking citizens with enabling his survival and remarkable recovery.
“You only have six minutes without oxygen before brain damage occurs,” explained Matthew Atkinson, a Virtua MICU chief who responded to the call with fellow paramedic Mark McCarthy. In fact, when CPR is performed right away, it can double or triple the chance of survival when cardiac arrest occurs outside of a hospital setting, according to the American Heart Association.
“Basic life support, including hands-only CPR, buys time because it supports the immediate needs of the body for oxygen and blood flow,” noted Randy Mintz, MD, director of the cardiac catheterization lab at Virtua Marlton Hospital.
Shortly after the MICU team brought Ken to the hospital, Dr. Mintz performed an emergency catheterization to open a completely blocked artery in Ken’s heart.
Bystanders Avert Tragedy
When Ken collapsed in his seat, two nearby diners hurried over to assist while the restaurant staff called 911 and cleared a path to the table.
“So many strangers pitched in to do what they could until the paramedics arrived and took over. In particular, one person had the instinct to start chest compressions,” said Dallas, who was visiting from her Boston home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
That do-gooder was Tim Curtis.
Coincidentally, Tim works for Virtua, but he’s not a health care provider. He works in the IT (information technology) Department as an applications analyst, across the street from Virtua Marlton Hospital. In fact, Tim works on the “Cupid Team,” which focuses on the workflows of Virtua’s cardiology division and includes Dr. Mintz.
Tim’s wife Jackie also helped with the rescue efforts, recalling the experience vividly.
“We had just sat down at the table and had just ordered our meals,” said Jackie, who owns an electrolysis business in Marlton. “I heard a woman scream. It was clear something was very wrong. You could hear the desperation in her voice. There were six or more tables between us and the restaurant was crowded. We looked at each other, and ran back [toward Ken’s table] together.”
Tim has taken basic life support courses and renewed his certification several times, noted Jackie, who had similar training as a lifeguard in the 1990s.
“I don’t think either of us thought we were the absolute ideal people to intervene, but we wanted to do something,” she said. “We knew we could figure it out together.”
A restaurant worker said they had called 911, and Jackie asked Ken’s daughter if he was on any medications. Jackie learned that Ken has diabetes – an important fact that she would soon share with the first responders.
“The man was unresponsive,” she noted. “Tim realized we had to move him from his seat, so he essentially lifted him out of the booth while I cradled his head. We laid him on the ground. It was unclear if he was breathing. We also could not be certain if he had a pulse.”
Jackie remembered learning to check for “ABC”: airway, breathing, circulation. “So I made sure his airway was open. Tim started to perform chest compressions. We just talked each other through it.”
While the Curtises’ efforts helped keep Ken alive, he remained unconscious.
“We did not think he was going to pull through,” said Tim.
Emergency Responders Step In
Within moments, a basic life-support ambulance from Evesham Township arrived.
“Because of what they learned via the 911 call, they knew what to anticipate and started defibrillation instantly. It was amazing to watch,” said Tim.
The Evesham EMTs had administered one shock and were performing CPR when Virtua’s MICU team arrived, just three-and-a-half minutes after getting the call. Thanks to the Curtises, they already knew Ken had diabetes, which would affect his treatment.
“We kicked into providing advanced life support,” said paramedic Atkinson. “We did everything right there on the restaurant floor. With cardiac arrest, moving the person [to another location] is risky.”
“It was very tight in there. Mark (paramedic McCarthy) was literally underneath the table in a booth. I was up by the patient’s head in a hallway by the kitchen area. The firefighters and other responders grabbed supplies and anything we needed,” Atkinson recalled.
He also credits the large police and firefighter presence for blocking off the area so he and McCarthy could best focus on saving Ken.
The Virtua paramedics worked together with the Evesham EMTs – each using their specialized skills in a coordinated way, as they are trained to do.
Ken’s heart was in an abnormal, lethal rhythm – one that does not generate a pulse. His heart was quivering rather than pumping, and even flatlining periodically, McCarthy recalled. The paramedics’ goal was to shock Ken’s heart back into a “perfusing” rhythm – the type that generates a pulse.
“We said, ‘Let’s keep going, let’s keep at this,’” as the partners administered repeated shocks and other interventions, said McCarthy. A police officer assisted by keeping time, letting the paramedics know when two minutes had passed so they could check Ken’s heart rhythm at those intervals.
The paramedics used a mechanical device that performs CPR, which is optimal because it prevents rescuer fatigue. They gave Ken various medications to help his heart regain a perfusing rhythm. And they placed a tube in his lungs, which was connected to equipment that breathed for him.
“We bring everything he’d receive in the ER for cardiac arrest. All the equipment and medications. So there’s no benefit in rushing to the ER in such cases,” Atkinson explained.
Finally, after about 30 minutes and nine shocks with the defibrillator, Ken’s heart developed a perfusing cardiac rhythm.
His body was also attempting to breathe on its own, which was a good sign, Atkinson noted.
He and McCarthy then transported Ken to nearby Virtua Marlton Hospital, about five minutes away.
Blockage Caused Cardiac Arrest
The hospital’s emergency department quickly confirmed that a blood clot had sealed off Ken’s right coronary artery, causing a massive heart attack. The hospital’s cardiac catheterization team used a minimally invasive procedure called angioplasty to unblock the artery and insert a stent to keep the artery open.
“Our ability to respond quickly is critical to patient outcomes,” said Dr. Mintz. “Our teams continually plan and train in order to be ready for scenarios just like this. Preparation is everything.”
Although Dr. Mintz and his team addressed the immediate concern, Ken’s recovery was still uncertain due to damage caused by the heart attack.
“Because of the initial low oxygen and blood supply, the whole heart was injured,” said Dr. Mintz.
After the angioplasty, Ken continued his recovery in the hospital for several days. He spent nearly a week in the Virtua Marlton intensive care unit. As he regained strength and stamina, he progressed to a “step down” unit at the hospital, and then spent nine days receiving inpatient services at Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital’s on-site rehabilitation center in Camden.
Today, Ken is back at home with his wife Maria, where the couple enjoyed the holidays with their daughter, son, and other relatives. Ken completed physical and speech therapy, and returned to his job as a business systems analyst on January 3.
Rare and Meaningful Reunion
Everyone involved – from the Hogan family to the bystanders to the medical personnel – is grateful for the chance to reconnect soon.
“It would be a tremendous blessing to see this family together and smiling. I remember Ken’s wife crying by the bedside. To see them in a different circumstance will be rewarding. His recovery reminds you of what made you want to be a nurse,” said Pamela Phelps, a Virtua critical care nurse.
“It’s very rare we get to meet someone who walked out of a hospital after cardiac arrest,” added paramedic Atkinson. “It means a lot. It reinforces everything we do.”
“It will be nice to see what color his eyes are,” said Tracy Scaletti, an emergency room nurse who cared for Ken while he was unconscious.
“We didn’t know what happened until we read Dallas’ Facebook post,” bystander Jackie Curtis recalled. “It was incredibly emotional to read that he pulled through. It was nice to officially meet one another.”
Learn CPR for the New Year
With Ken’s story as inspiration, the New Year is a great time to become CPR-certified, noted Dr. Mintz.
“If you are looking to start a new family tradition, why not spend a few hours learning how to save a life?” he suggests. “Then, you’ll know what to do if a friend, family member, or even a stranger has a medical emergency.”
Virtua Health, the American Heart Association, and many other organizations offer CPR and Basic Life Support classes, which train participants to intervene in critical, time-sensitive situations.
For Virtua courses, visit https://virtua.enrollware.com/
To learn more about Virtua or to find a Virtua doctor, visit www.virtua.org or call (888) VIRTUA-3.
About Virtua Health:
Virtua Health is an academic health system committed to helping the people of South Jersey be well, get well, and stay well by providing the complete spectrum of advanced, accessible, and trusted healthcare services. Virtua’s 14,000 colleagues provide tertiary care, including renowned cardiology and transplant programs, complemented by a community-based care portfolio. In addition to five hospitals, two satellite emergency departments, 32 ambulatory surgery centers, and more than 350 other locations, Virtua brings health services directly into communities through Hospital at Home, physical therapy and rehabilitation, mobile screenings, and its paramedic program. Virtua has 2,850 affiliated doctors and other clinicians, and its specialties include orthopedics, advanced surgery, and maternity. Virtua is academically affiliated with Rowan University, leading research, innovation, and immersive education at the Virtua Health College of Medicine & Life Sciences of Rowan University. Virtua is also affiliated with Penn Medicine for cancer and neuroscience and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for pediatrics. As a not-for-profit, Virtua is committed to the community's well-being and provides innovative outreach programs that address social challenges affecting health, most notably the “Eat Well” food access initiative, which includes the unparalleled Eat Well Mobile Grocery Store. A Magnet-recognized health system ranked by U.S. News and World Report, Virtua has received many awards for quality, safety, and its outstanding work environment. For more information, visit Virtua.org. To help Virtua make a difference, visit GiveToVirtua.org.