For Elizabeth Hobbie, a vigorous hike through the scenic parks near her Oakland home is a favorite pastime. Last year, when she experienced chest pain while hiking, the 33-year-old wife and mother of two wasn't overly concerned. Still, she went to see her doctor at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.
I am so grateful they never gave up on me.
The results of her stress echocardiogram test were startling: She had heart disease. Her doctor immediately ordered an angiogram. Cardiologist Eric Johnson, M.D., chief of endovascular services at Alta Bates Summit, oversaw the test. It revealed a life-threatening problem not typically found in young, otherwise healthy women. Hobbie's left main and right coronary arteries were 90 percent blocked.
"As I was telling her I recommended bypass surgery, her blood pressure dropped," Dr. Johnson says. Moments later, Hobbie went into cardiac arrest.
What happened next has been called miraculous—and reflects the outstanding coordination, skills and perseverance of the doctors, nurses, technicians and staff who sprang into action. The team immediately began CPR, which they continued nonstop for two hours. Another doctor inserted a breathing tube. The perfusionist began cooling Hobbie's body temperature to preserve brain function, and Dr. Johnson inserted a stent into her left artery—while she was receiving CPR.
"We were devastated at the thought of losing this young mother," Dr. Johnson says. "We tried everything we could."
Next, cardiac surgeon Russell Stanten, M.D., put Hobbie on cardiopulmonary bypass to keep her heart and lungs working. "I was convinced she would not survive," Dr. Johnson says. But amazingly, although her heart remained in cardiac arrest, the medical team kept her alive overnight.
Believing Hobbie would ultimately need a heart transplant, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Stanten transferred her to California Pacific Medical Center, also affiliated with Sutter Health. But day by day, her condition improved. "She miraculously recovered with her own heart," Dr. Johnson says. Two weeks later, Hobbie was strong enough to go home. She then completed cardiac rehabilitation at Alta Bates Summit.
"In hindsight," Dr. Johnson says, "Every step we took had to happen exactly the way it did. Thanks to the skill and perseverance of our medical team, and Elizabeth's tenacity, she pulled through."
"I was in the right place at the right time when my heart stopped," Hobbie says. "I am so grateful they never gave up on me. Today, I feel healthier than I have in a long time."