‘Miracle’ Patient James McDermott Returns to Health First to Thank Miracle Workers

By  //  July 26, 2021

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First Flight is a key component of Code Rupture

AORTIC ANEURYSM RUPTURE SURVIVOR James McDermott, right, reunites with Stacey Joyner, left, ARNP-C, and patient care director Annette Carey. (Health First image)

First Flight and vascular surgery team welcome back aortic aneurysm rupture patient who beat the odds to celebrate his birthday this Fourth of July.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – He beat the odds on Cinco de Mayo and lived to see his 66th birthday on the Fourth of July – in between, he was reunited with key players in the hospital system who brought him back from the brink.

James McDermott suffered a ruptured aortic aneurysm and collapsed beside where he’d parked his car at Calvary Baptist Church on Wickham Road in Melbourne May 5.

There, bystanders called for an ambulance. Diagnosed at a local hospital, McDermott was airlifted by Health First’s First Flight helicopter to Holmes Regional Medical Center, where vascular surgeon Dr. Irfan Imami and his team waited.

Since then, James and his wife Lisa have located and thanked the couple who stopped to help him at the church that day.

They returned to Health First to visit his care team by way of a special VIP First Flight escort, and they reunited with Dr. Imami at the Heart Center at Holmes Regional, along with Dr. Roger Moccia and Stacey Joyner, ARNP-C – all agents of the Code Rupture protocol.

James McDermott, left, was airlifted by Health First’s First Flight helicopter to Holmes Regional Medical Center, where vascular surgeon Dr. Irfan Imami, right, and his team waited. (Health First image)

“A blood pressure of 40 such as James had,” said Dr. Imami, “means you’re not breathing, you’re not awake, pretty much. He was intubated, with an 8.5 cm tear [in his aorta] – those numbers, I mean, statistically, you shouldn’t be there.”

“Ugh, I’m still coping with it,” James said. “But I’m feeling better. The doctor here did say that I’m going to be in bad shape for a while, but my recovery is pretty good – walking good, breathing good. I’m even working out a little bit.”

When James went down at Calvary Baptist Church, the couple who happened to be driving by that day and helped was a former Holmes Regional Emergency Department nurse turned instructor in Eastern Florida State College’s EMT/Paramedic program, Kim Eddleman, and her husband Scott, a Brevard County Fire Rescue lieutenant.

James also had the benefit of skilled flight nurses and paramedics aboard First Flight. One of them was Travis Bice.

“The helicopter transport in most every community that has it is going to be the highest level of care you can get outside of a physician in a hospital,” he said. “This is where you’re going to get the same level care you’d get in a long-term ICU or a high-level trauma bay, but in a much smaller, compact, mobile unit.”

TRAVIS BICE, a Health First First Flight RN and paramedic, was a big part of the life-saving care patient James McDermott received following an aortic aneurysm rupture in his abdomen. (Health First image)

James said he couldn’t remember the helicopter ride, and Bice said that that’s as it should be. He also said it’s rare for a nurse in his position to get such a complete picture of a patient’s miraculous recovery.

“The training and experience we have is going to help someone at a critical point, and they’re not always big heroic Hollywood saves. We don’t think, ‘We’re going to save someone today.’ At the end of the day, if we find out that he was saved, and we were a part of it, it validates that we did what we trained for, and the result shows.”

First Flight is a key component of Code Rupture, a protocol Dr. Imami helped develop that starts the clock on surgery prep for a ruptured aorta and times out at 30 minutes, including transport.

“We’ve got the recipe here at Health First’s Holmes Regional, and James is the shining example of it. We’ve made efficiencies so granular there’s zero waste. It takes experience to do that. About 20 years.”

In James’ case, an endovascular stent was successfully grafted. Today, James has no jagged scar (the stent is inserted through a small hole in the groin), and his recovery has been speedy.

“We’ve narrowed everything down in this Code Rupture protocol. In his case, we had no room for error – no margin.”

Like other chance events for James McDermott that day in May, it went perfectly.

James McDermott suffered a ruptured aortic aneurysm and collapsed beside where he’d parked his car at Calvary Baptist Church on Wickham Road in Melbourne May 5.
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