Medics resuscitate man 42 times after heart attack

The team of medics performed CPR and applied the AED until the man was revived


The Capital

GREENBELT, Md. — To hear Tony Mucciacciaro tell it, his Italian surname means "a man who likes to be around women."

There probably isn't any phrase in Italian to describe what happened to Mucciacciaro late on May 8.

A chemical analyst at NASA Greenbelt, Mucciacciaro had returned to his home after a long day spent researching methods to prevent contamination of spacecraft.

In the NASA labs, Mucciacciaro works with a variety of tools including contamination monitoring plates, heat guns, clean rooms and other equipment to ensure U.S. spacecraft and their contents remain free of biohazards or other dangers.

A resident of Glen Burnie, Mucciacciaro looked outside and realized the back yard was in dire need of mowing. The Zoysia grass, dense and tough, was growing like wildfire. He pulled out his old "piece of junk" lawn mower and pushed hard it around the yard. The grass put up a fight.

Afterward, Mucciacciaro pulled out his pack of USA Ultra Light cigarettes and lit one up.

When he finished, he went inside, showered and watched some TV with his wife, Beth, a registered nurse with the Anne Arundel County Department of Aging, and their daughter Victoria, 17, a junior at Old Mill High.

Mucciacciaro woke up around midnight, bothered by burping and indigestion.

He went into the kitchen, found his bottle of Tums and chewed two tablets. Returning to his bedroom, he passed out and collapsed in the living room.

Beth heard his body hit the floor and ran to his side. Mucciacciaro was awake.

She checked him and immediately called 911.

"They were at the house within three minutes," said Mucciacciaro, still amazed.

He was assessed on the scene by the EMT squad. They quickly attached LifeNet sensors and looked at the portable monitor. The medics could tell his vital signs were not good. His right coronary artery was blocked.

The information about his pulse, heart rate and condition of his arteries was broadcast simultaneously to teams in the emergency room and catheterization lab at University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

The medics bundled him into the ambulance for the short ride to the hospital.

"When I got to BWMC's emergency room, a team was waiting for me," Mucciacciaro said. "I was wheeled into a room and could see they were looking at my EKG scan. I was scared at this point. Shaking. Cold sweats."

Despite the late hour, interventional cardiologist Dr. Kelly Miller was at his bedside.

The doctor suggested a side trip to lab for a CAT scan, an X-ray. He hit his head when he fell and Miller wanted to ensure she was aware of all his medical issues.

The scan was performed quickly. Mucciacciaro remembers the technician assuring him the X-ray looked fine. His gurney was wheeled over to the catherization lab.

Mucciacciaro had another attack and passed out again.

He woke up several hours later. He wondered why his family was solemnly gathered around his bed. A tube in his throat prevented him from speaking.

Beth told him his heart stopped repeatedly during the time it took for the doctor to perform the catheterization procedure to unclog his artery. The doctor inserted three stents to hold the artery open, allowing the blood to flow again.

The Code Blue team, experienced at resuscitation, performed CPR throughout the procedure in the cath lab. They also applied the AED, shocking his heart into restarting a stunning 42 times.

The AED pads were placed in two spots on his upper body, above and below his heart. The repeated electrical shocks scorched his skin. There were burn marks for months afterward. Now, when he sneezes hard, he still feels soreness in his ribs from the CPR compressions.

"This cardiologist and this team did not give up on me," Mucciacciaro said. "They kept going. They call me the 'Miracle Man' and want to know who my guardian angel is."

Mucciacciaro is not absolutely certain why he had a heart attack. He had no overt symptoms, but there were some indicators.

At 6 foot 1 inch, he weighed 230 pounds, putting him just over the "overweight" side of the Body Mass Index chart and into the "obese" category. He smoked about three-quarters of a pack daily – 15 cigarettes, but rarely ever drinks alcohol. He doesn't like the taste.

"There were no blood pressure problems. No diabetes," he said.

Though his parents, and his paternal and maternal grandparents are free of heart problems, three of his siblings have had vascular issues. The siblings were all smokers.

His sister died suddenly of a heart attack at age 45. His two older brothers have had bypass surgery. Both deal with a lot of stress.

The heart attack was a wake-up call for Mucciacciaro. He quit smoking, a bad habit of more than 30 years.

"Now, when I pass someone who has just had a cigarette, in the elevator or in the parking garage, and smell the smoke I feel nauseous," he said.

Post heart attack, Mucciacciaro began cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.

BWMC offers a gym-like setting for patients recovering from heart attacks, vascular issues or other illnesses. A workout routine was custom-designed for him that included time on a treadmill, an arm bike machine, weight lifting, stretching and a cool down period. To ensure his safety while exercising, Mucciacciaro wears a wireless monitor that sends his vital information to a computer, which is observed by the center's therapists.

"My insurance covered 36 visits," Mucciacciaro said. "At the 32nd visit, Dr. Miller encouraged me to continue my exercise routine. I go three times a week and have done 100 one-hour exercise sessions.

"I've lost ten pounds and gained muscle weight."

Mucciacciaro hopes his story saves lives.

"It was something that came and hit me on the side of the head, but I'm still here, alive and kicking."

Copyright 2016 The Capital
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McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  1. Tags
  2. Cardiac arrest
  3. Heart attack
  4. Paramedics
  5. Resuscitation

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