Patient Stories

Former Firefighter Saves Man’s Life Before Cincinnati Bengals Playoff Game

Mar. 1, 2022

The patient was transported to UC Medical Center and had a procedure performed by UC Health’s cardiac surgery team.

On a snowy January afternoon, Edward (Ed) Fernandes reflected on what had been a life-changing few weeks. Never could he have imagined weeks earlier before the Cincinnati Bengals AFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Las Vegas Raiders what would happen to him on that day.

As he and his grandson, Noah, were walking toward Paul Brown Stadium, Ed collapsed, and the next thing he remembers is waking up in a bed on the UC Medical Center Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU), with his grandson and wife standing over him.

Just as he was about to go watch his favorite team, the Raiders, compete in their first playoff game since 2016, Ed suffered a heart attack.

“I sat there in the hospital and couldn’t believe what happened,” Ed said.

Originally from Oakland, California, Ed has been a Raiders fan for decades, following them from their origins in Oakland, to Los Angeles in the 1980s, to now in Las Vegas. He grew up near the Oakland Coliseum, the former home to the Raiders and the current site of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics.

While Ed was in college, he went to his first Raiders game. That’s when he fell in love with the team—from the team colors to the players, this was the team he knew he wanted to follow for a long time.

Over the years, Ed went to many Raiders games and was even once a season ticket holder. As he got older, he has tried to share that love for his team with his kids and grandchildren.

Ed accepted a manufacturing job in 1964 and remained with the company until he retired. At the time, he was one of the youngest managers of the company’s plants. His career took him from northern California all the way to Cleveland, Ohio, where he managed a plant in Eaton, Ohio in the early 1980s. Ed now enjoys retirement life in Miamisburg, just outside of Dayton.

Now at 78 years old, Ed enjoys life with his wife, Pat, plays golf and spends a lot of time with his grandkids. Although he is no longer a season ticket holder, he tries to get to as many Raiders games as he can.

In early January 2022, Ed’s grandson Noah surprised him with tickets to the Bengals first-round playoff game. At the time, neither of them knew who the Bengals would play, but knew it could still possibly be the Raiders. After the Raiders beat the Los Angeles Chargers in the final week of the NFL regular season, it was official—Ed would get to see his favorite team in the playoffs.

On Jan. 15, Ed and Noah made the short drive down to Cincinnati from Miamisburg. After parking, they started walking toward the stadium, but not long into their walk, Ed got short of breath and collapsed.

That is the last thing he remembers.

“I woke up at the hospital and was wondering what had happened,” Ed explained. “I remembered absolutely nothing.”

What is Ventricular Fibrillation Arrest?

The next thing Ed recalled was lying in a bed at UC Medical Center, with his wife and grandson relieved to see him awake. He was told he had a heart attack, and a man had saved his life minutes after he collapsed.

Ed’s case was complicated—he didn’t just have a heart attack, which occurs when an artery that delivers oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle is blocked. Instead, he had a ventricular fibrillation arrest—his heart stopped beating on its own for a period of time and his arteries were critically blocked, which impacted the electrical function of his heart.

Had he not received bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), along with an automatic electronic defibrillator (AED), Ed wouldn’t have survived and his brain would not have received the oxygen needed. Overall, his condition was dire.

According to the American Heart Association, about 90% of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die before they make it to the hospital. But with CPR, the chance of survival for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest can double or triple.

For Ed, what was supposed to be an exciting afternoon watching his favorite football team turned into a fight for his life. Because he doesn’t remember the details of what happened, he relied on Pat, Noah and his medical team to understand everything and navigate an unfamiliar hospital.

“I never realized what to expect,” Ed said. “But the team took care of me every step of the way. They were phenomenal and knew exactly what to do. As time went on, I became more and more confident with their knowledge and expertise.”

Prior to that day he collapsed, Ed had few issues with his health. He did, however, find out two and a half years earlier that he had a heart murmur, which is extra sound in a heartbeat. He was given a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), which takes pictures of the heart. Aside from this, there weren’t any concerns with Ed’s health, so when he suffered from ventricular fibrillation arrest, it was stunning.

Now that Ed knew what happened, he was curious as to how he ended up at UC Medical Center—and who saved his life.

The answer is Jerry Mills, a life-long Bengals fan, former firefighter and currently an emergency department nurse in Dallas. He, too, was in Cincinnati for the game when he saw Ed lying on the sidewalk. Jerry immediately ran over to him and helped stabilize Ed with CPR and AED and saw him into the emergency medical transport vehicle to UC Medical Center. Jerry then went into the stadium and saw the Bengals win their first playoff game in 31 years.

“In the medical field, we know ‘time is tissue,’ so immediate and effective CPR is paramount in cardiac arrest,” said Jerry, who did rotations at UC Medical Center while completing work in the paramedic program at University of Cincinnati’s Clermont campus.

UC Health is home to the region’s first and most experienced adult heart transplant program and gives patients hope through innovative and compassionate heart disease treatment. In addition, UC Health’s multidisciplinary teams collaborate daily to find the best solutions for even the most difficult conditions, like with Ed’s case.

Ed’s care team included cardiologists, nurses, respiratory therapists and team members from the catheterization lab. Together, they continued Ed’s lifesaving treatment that was ultimately made possible by Jerry’s quick thinking and heroic actions.

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting

Now that Ed had been fully resuscitated and transported to the hospital, UC Health’s cardiac team could find a way to save his life. He had open-heart surgery, also known as coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) with a mitral valve repair, performed by Louis Benson Louis IV, MD, chief of Cardiac Surgery at UC Medical Center and the Louis Buckberg Endowed Chair of Cardiac Surgery at the UC College of Medicine.

“Ed had less than a 20% chance of survival prior to coming to UC Medical Center,” Dr. Louis explained. “But thanks to our multidisciplinary team, we were able to perform this surgery and give him a chance at survival. His outlook looks great now.”

The procedure was successful, and Ed remained in the CVICU to recover for a few days. Along with Dr. Louis, Ed was cared for by Imran Arif, MD, UC Health interventional cardiologist and professor of clinical medicine at the UC College of Medicine, and Christopher Mahida, MD, UC Health interventional cardiology fellow. Members of the catheterization lab team included Tim Carlin, RN; Hali Sebastian, RT; and Jacob Blanton, RN.

“What a fantastic family and fantastic person,” Tim said about Ed and the Fernandes family. “I was happy to help Ed and be part of this team. Patients like this remind me why I became a nurse.”

Ed was transferred from the CVICU to a stepdown unit down the hallway on the sixth floor of UC Medical Center. He went back home two weeks later.

“Mr. Fernandes was in great spirits. He was a great patient and reminded us all of the reasons why we went into the medical field,” Jacob said. “The past two years have been especially difficult [due to COVID-19], but patients like him make our days a lot better.”

Despite the frightening experience, Ed remained positive and worked hard to recover so he could reunite with his family back home.

“I feel terrific now,” Ed said. “I look forward to spending time with my family again, especially the grandkids.”

All of this has been made possible thanks to Jerry and to Ed’s care team. He remains grateful for everyone who helped save his life.

“It warms my heart to know that Ed has made a full recovery,” Jerry said.

Having only been to Cincinnati a few times, Ed is appreciative for the friendly spirit of the city. Although he hopes others don’t have to go through the same life-threatening struggles, he wishes they will go to UC Health to receive care if needed.

“As a team, we were able to come together quickly, determine exactly what the issue was, and the physicians were able to create a plan of care that best benefitted Mr. Fernandes,” Hali explained. “These kinds of situations make me proud to be part of this excellent team.”

Since he wasn’t able to attend the Raiders playoff game this year, Ed already looks forward to next year when he will be able to see them again. He hopes that his love for the Raiders will eventually rub off on his grandkids.