“Welcome back, Wade.”
STARS Very Important Patient Wade Cassidy will never forget those three words, spoken by his flight nurse. Just seconds before, Cassidy was having a massive heart attack. He could feel his world slipping away from him.
He had kissed his wife goodbye and sent his love to their two boys. As the doors to the ambulance closed, he began to fade.
“Everything went clear. Not black, but everything went clear, it was a very euphoric feeling, and that was actually me going into cardiac arrest and my heart stopping,” said Cassidy. “It was weird; all I could see was my wife and kids standing there smiling at me and I was kind of looking at them thinking this is the most peaceful feeling I’ve ever felt in my life and I didn’t want it to end.”
Suddenly, he received a big jolt of electricity and awoke to flight nurse Crystal Lybeck’s voice.
“Welcome back, Wade.”
It was the end of summer and Cassidy was taking the docks in from the lake, when he started feeling nauseous. He was hot and sweaty and his chest felt like an elephant had taken up residence. He yelled for his cousin to call 911, as he couldn’t himself. As the ambulance arrived at the dock, an emergency room doctor who worked in a nearby city and happened to be at the lake came by.
He advised the EMTs to call STARS, as Cassidy only had minutes to live and the drive was more than two hours. As the ambulance raced toward to cath lab in the city, STARS headed toward the ambulance. They met on the side of the highway and our paramedic and nurse hopped out of the helicopter and into the ambulance.
“I’ll never forget that day,” said Lybeck. “When you’re dispatched for a patient who is having a heart attack and is that young, it stands out. His wife was outside the ambulance when we rendezvoused on the side of the road. She was distraught and worried about their two boys. I just remember the patient being too young for that.”
The initial plan was to fly Cassidy to a nearby local health-care facility to pick up some medication and as Lybeck and her STARS flight paramedic partner Glen Pilon weighed the options, Cassidy began gasping and went into cardiac arrest again.
“So when we got him back we knew we didn’t have time to stop,” said Lybeck. Cassidy was transferred into the helicopter.
When they landed, Lybeck called the patient’s wife, Thea Cassidy, who was taking the long drive to meet her husband, not knowing what was in store.
“She put the phone to Wade’s ear and I was able to hear his voice,” said Thea Cassidy. “Nobody will really understand just how much that meant, because I still had an hour drive into the city, but they had landed.”
Wade Cassidy went straight into surgery and the medical team was able to repair his heart. Not long after his mission, Cassidy visited the local medics who first arrived at the lake and then went to the STARS base to meet the team who helped him in the helicopter.
It was a memorable reunion for everyone, especially the crew.
“It’s quite emotional because a lot of people don’t survive out-of-hospital cardiac arrest,” said Pilon, adding that it feels pretty special to have been part of this life-saving mission.
For Cassidy, who feels like he received a second chance at life, he is not only grateful to STARS, but also to the donors and allies who made his mission possible. He vows not to waste it.
“Every day that you wake up and put your socks on is a gift. Use that day to do the stuff you want to do. Give your wife that extra hug. Give your kids that extra hug even if you’re embarrassing them because every day is a gift. And it’s precious.”