It was a normal Wednesday night and Robert Pace went to the gym for his favorite workout. He started out with three fast miles on the elliptical, followed by exercises with medicine balls and ended with weights.
After working out, the 59-year-old went home, ate an apple, and sat down to watch a little of the World Series. “It started with just a little pain in my chest. I thought maybe I overdid it at the gym. Then I thought maybe I wasn’t sitting correctly in my chair. I got up and started feeling a little worse. That’s when I said to my wife, ‘Geez, I’m having a little chest pain.'”
When the pain got worse, Robert’s wife, a former nurse, insisted on a trip to the emergency room and drove him to Winchester Hospital. “As we were walking in, I said, ‘It feels better now,’ but she said ‘No, go in, we want to sleep peacefully tonight.’ We went up to the lady at the front desk and told her I was having some kind of chest pain and then bang! I go right down to the ground. I was totally unconscious.”
The code button was pushed and the Winchester Hospital Emergency Department team sprang into action. “I went through the door to the reception area and saw Mr. Pace laying on the floor. Jeanne Dunn, RN, was trying to wake him up. Very quickly we realized that he didn’t have a pulse and wasn’t breathing,” Dermot Lahey, NP, said.
“I was totally unconscious,” Pace said. ” No, I didn’t see any white light, and no, I didn’t see any visions of anybody. It was like I went to sleep.”
Dunn started CPR while another nurse ran for the nearest defibrillator. Lahey opened his airway and gave oxygen. The team shocked his heart to put it back into rhythm. Once stabilized, Pace was transferred to Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington.
“I remember, Dermot, hearing his voice,” Pace said. “He was telling me to take it easy, stay calm, I think you’re having a heart attack. I heard my wife’s voice, too. After that I guess they put me under. I don’t remember anything until I woke up on Thursday morning and they told me what happened,” Pace said.
The two nurses, Lahey and Dunn, accompanied Pace to Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, where a stent was placed on the right side of his heart to open a blockage likely caused by plaque that broke off. The next day doctors placed another stent on the left side to be proactive.
“I’m not sure if the plaque broke off while exercising. I never had shortness of breath, never was tired, ate healthy. I am pretty active and like being physical in my life and work,” Pace said.
After a two-and-a-half day hospital stay, Pace was back home and rehabilitating. He felt good enough to stop by the Winchester Hospital Emergency Department a week after he collapsed on a special mission.
“I had to thank Dermot and all the nurses. We brought dinner, drinks and some cookies to thank them. They did a super job — they brought me back,” Pace said.
When Lahey saw his former patient, he said he was delighted to see him walking around. “In my line of work, I see a lot of cardiac arrests. Many don’t survive and those who do generally have serious problems afterward. To see him walking through the emergency room doors just seven days later was just incredible. His survival and his return to thank us is something I will never forget.”