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‘Chain of survival’ highlighted in Pa. mom’s reunion with first responders

Katie Young was able to thank Northampton Regional EMS and Catasauqua Fire Department personnel for their quick response


Members of the Catasauqua Fire Department and Northampton Regional EMS stand for a photo with Katie Young, whom the firefighters and ambulance personnel helped save from cardiac arrest, during a reunion with her care team hosted Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, by Northampton Regional EMS in Northampton.

Kurt Bresswein | For/TNS

By Kurt Bresswein
The Express-Times

CATASAUQU, Pa. — Katie Young and her 3-year-old daughter, Ada, weren’t feeling well one Friday almost a year ago, so Young and her husband, Adam Young, stayed home from work.

Their son, Holden, just 6 months, was teething, but the couple managed to put the kids down for a nap inside their Catasauqua home.

“We got something to eat and we sat down to watch TV, he said I looked at him and I said, ‘I’m lightheaded,’ and he said, like that, it just all happened,” Katie Young recalled Tuesday.

Katie Young’s heart stopped. It was March 24, 2023. An underlying ventricular arrhythmia would cause her to go into cardiac arrest again and again the next day.

But by then, thanks to immediate CPR by her husband and a quick response by Northampton Regional EMS and the Catasauqua Fire Department, Katie Young was in the care of Lehigh Valley Health Network.

On Tuesday, at Northampton Regional’s headquarters, 1525 Canal St. in Northampton, the 37-year-old and her family reunited with the care team that saved her.

“I want to say thank you to everyone,” Adam Young told those gathered. “I wouldn’t have my best friend now if it wasn’t for all of you.”

Tuesday’s reunion set up by LVHN comes as American Heart Month in February draws to a close. Cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the United States, and fewer than 10% of people who go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting survive, the health network says.

Dr. Eric Elgin, a cardiologist at the Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute, said Katie Young’s story is about the success of the “chain of survival” — a cornerstone of CPR.

“As much as I think that we are great at delivering care once they get into our hands … it’s really this group that gets our patients into our hands,” Elgin said alongside the Youngs and members of the ambulance square and North Catasauqua-based fire crew that came to Katie’s aid.

Ada Young, now 4, and Holden, 17 months, played around in the Northampton Regional garage bay during Tuesday’s reunion, which featured the presentation of heart-shaped awards to those who played a role in keeping Katie Young around for them.

Adam Young said he first learned CPR as a lifeguard, the part-time job he and Katie Young both held when they first met. He keeps current with his certification as operations manager for a Lehigh Valley QVC fulfillment center, to make sure he can take the initiative to save a team member if needed.

Along with immediately dialing 911, hands-only CPR can mean the difference between life and death for those in cardiac arrest.

“The importance of hands-only CPR is absolutely critical in this situation, and any loved one — any bystander — could be involved in that,” said Dr. Nidhi Mehta, a physician who helped Katie Young in the Intensive Care Unit at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg in Bethlehem.

“This is a group effort,” Mehta continued. “Loved ones are a key piece, along with the EMS crew in getting her to that point.”

Katie Young suffered subsequent losses of pulse due to ventricular arrhythmia in the ICU after she was seen in the Emergency Department, Mehta said. The next day, a Saturday, she was stabilized enough to be transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest in Salisbury Township.

“It was touch and go at the beginning,” said Dr. Sergio Cossu, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Cedar Crest. “That day, Saturday, when she called me ... .”

“A million times,” Mehta finished his sentence.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Cossu said.

Katie Young was hospitalized with complications for about a month, according to her LVHN team.

Tuesday, she was feeling “not too bad,” she said — “hanging in there. It’s been challenging.”

Katie Young said the day of her attack seemed normal, other than feeling under the weather. During her pregnancy with Holden, she’d been feeling lightheaded and sometimes her heart would race — possible warning signs, she would learn, of cardiac arrest.

“And I was getting that leading up to it happening,” she said. “I was six months postpartum when it did happen.”

“Most people aren’t going to call the doctor for being lightheaded,” Katie Young allowed. “So just little things like that. Other than that I didn’t really have any other symptoms.”

Today she has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, that monitors her heart activity and can shock her out of a repeat of the ventricular arrhythmia, she said.

“I have a little bit of relief knowing that if something were to happen, I kind of have a life insurance,” she said.

She has no memory of that day, only what her husband tells her, but what the couple do have is gratitude.

“I owe you, everyone here, everything,” Adam Young told those reunited Tuesday.

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