SOURCE: Advocate Children's Hospital

July 10, 2013 09:13 ET

Heart Nurse Saves His Life; He Owes Her a Chicken Sandwich

OAK LAWN, IL--(Marketwired - July 10, 2013) -  Call it fate. A perfect alignment of the planets. Angels.

You may believe all of it or none of it, but something out of this world happened when 16-year-old Nicholas Theilgaard's heart suddenly stopped beating and his breath left him, while dining with his family in the outdoor area of an Orland Park restaurant last Sunday afternoon, July 7.

That's because from the inside shadows of the eatery ran a nurse, who immediately rendered lifesaving CPR. But, not just any nurse. In fact, Sarah Kane, RN, is a nurse practitioner in pediatric heart surgery at Advocate Children's Hospital-Oak Lawn, the hospital where Nicholas' cardiology team practices and where the staff has intimate knowledge of his rare heart condition. She and her fiancée, a local physician specializing in podiatry and orthopedics, just happened to be dining at the same time as the Theilgaard family.

"When I reached Nicholas, he was on the ground, had no pulse and was not breathing," Sarah said. "I immediately started CPR. My fiancée assisted with chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation."

Without a portable automated external defibrillator nearby, the couple manually worked on the young man for about 10 minutes, keeping him alive until paramedics could arrive. "At one point, he began breathing on his own, but then quickly lapsed again into [heart] defibrillation," Sarah said.

Nicholas, who lives with his parents in Midlothian, Ill., suffers from a rare heart condition -- arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia. The disorder causes heart muscle to slowly change into fatty tissue and to scar, forcing the heart to pump less efficiently and making it prone to abnormal rhythms, said his attending pediatric cardiologist, Ira Shetty MD.

"Without Sarah, Nicholas would not have survived," said Dr. Shetty, an Advocate Medical Group physician at Advocate Children's Hospital-Oak Lawn.

It required two shocks from the automated external defibrillator brought by paramedics to return Nicholas to a heartbeat and a pulse. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, stabilized and then transferred to the pediatric surgical heart unit at Advocate Children's Hospital-Oak Lawn, where Sarah had already notified the pediatric cardiology team to anticipate his arrival.

It was only later that a relieved Sarah learned the young man whom she and her fiancée had so urgently worked to save was alive and talking in the Advocate Children's Hospital heart unit.

Before he is discharged from the hospital later this week, Nicholas will be fitted with a LifeVest™, which he will have to wear 24 hours a day. The vest will continuously monitor his heart and, if necessary, deliver lifesaving shocks if his heart again goes into defibrillation, Dr. Shetty said. The vest will only be temporary, however, since Nicholas is expected to be implanted with a subcutaneous implantable defibrillator (S-ICD) next month. The device is placed under the skin along the bottom of the patient's rib cage and breast bone, but does not require a lead that connects directly to the heart.

A very grateful Nicholas has since composed a rap song to celebrate his survival and the work of the professionals who have cared for him.

Meanwhile, Sarah has kiddingly told Nicholas he owes her a chicken sandwich. Neither she nor her fiancée ever finished their restaurant meals.

About Advocate Children's Hospital

As part of Advocate Health Care, Advocate Children's Hospital is the largest network provider of pediatric services in Illinois and among the top 10 in the nation. The two main campuses are located in the Chicago metropolitan region -- Oak Lawn in the southwest and Park Ridge in the northwest, with additional services accessible at other Advocate hospitals throughout the state. Advocate Children's Hospital serves as a major referral center for infants and children. Through a special, wholistic approach, Advocate Children's Hospital combines some of the country's most respected medical talent with exceptional and compassionate care. In fact, the children's hospital has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation's leaders in pediatric cardiology and neonatology, and numerous physicians have been cited as being among the "Top Doctors" regionally and nationally in their respective fields. Advocate Children's Hospital is staffed by more than 400 pediatricians and 230 pediatric subspecialists who offer a wide range of services for children.

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