A celebration of survival for woman, her rescuers

New Hampshire Union Leader
November 13. 2012 10:29PM
Cynthia Pratte of Manchester, right, pins an award on Jason Rapsis, an EMT Intermediate with American Medical Response who was one of the responders to her cardiac arrest last February, during a ceremony at Central Fire Station in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER - Cynthia Pratte beat the odds last February when she suffered a cardiac arrest at home. Estimates of the survival rate for non-hospital cardiac arrest vary by organization, but the best estimate is still under 10 percent.

But everything came together perfectly for Pratte's survival.

Monday at the Manchester Fire Department Central Station, Pratte, her son Matthew, firefighters, AMR paramedics and the Elliot Hospital's EMS medical director gathered for a ceremony to celebrate Pratte's survival and the actions of those who helped make it possible.

Christopher Stawasz, AMR regional manager of community medicine, said Pratte's survival is cause for celebration and the awarding of special pins to those involved. He said his father's death from cardiac arrest 40 years ago, as he stood by helplessly, pushed him toward his chosen career.

Pratte, 52, who describes herself as a Type A personality dealing with lots of stress, was working as a nurse at an assisted living center and studying for a college degree when she suffered cardiac arrest Feb. 27.

"They found me with all my books," she said.

She said she didn't realize it at the time, but she had a classic symptom. She had gotten up and made coffee, but felt so tired that she decided to "lay down for a minute."

It was almost forever.

Pratte's son, Matt, who had gotten off the second shift at the Bow Police Department and was asleep in his bedroom with the door shut heard a noise that woke him.

"It was like a very loud moaning," said Matt.

Matt went to check on his mother. She said she is amazed her son heard anything because her door was closed and a fan was on.

He thought she might be asleep.

"I shook her," he said, but there was no response.

"I wasn't 100 percent sure," he said, but he called 911 and, at the direction of the operator, began hands-only CPR.

It was just six months after he completed CPR training at the Police Standards and Training Academy. He knew he'd someday need to use that training but never thought it would be on his mother.

The paramedics and fire department personnel arrived and took over, with paramedics providing advanced cardiac life support procedures. Fire Lt. Kevin Healey said Matt was "calm, cool and collected."

Pratte said she can remember hearing a commotion around her, but that's all. No bright light or anything else.

Pratte was transported to Elliot Hospital, where the ER and cardiac staff worked on her.

"I woke up four days later," she said. She had been put into a medically induced coma and learned later that doctors had said it wouldn't be known until she woke up whether she had suffered brain damage.

After being released from the hospital, where she had been in intensive care, she was summoned back to the hospital for a test. That was the scariest part, she said, because a consequence of failing the test was another cardiac arrest.

Eventually, she underwent surgery and a defibrillator was implanted to prevent a recurrence.

She said she tries to put it out of her mind, but she was technically dead and has been told she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. She still has an extremely emotional reaction when she hears sirens and sees emergency vehicles.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said children sometimes wonder how they can repay their mother for all she has done for them. In Matt's case, Gatsas said, "the repayment was incredible."

Pratte thanked the firefighters, paramedics and Dr. Tom D'Aprix.

"It's the first time I've met you. Fortunately, it's the second time you met me," she said. "Without you guys, I wouldn't be here."

The team of AMR paramedic Ryan Fedel, AMR EMT-Intermediate Jason Rapsis, Lt. Healey, and firefighters Brennan Pingree and Raymond Seddon worked together to save Pratte's life and get her to the Elliot, where the ER and cardiac teams took over.

- - - - - - - -

Dale Vincent may be reached at dvincent@unionleader.com.

Public SafetyHealthNH PeopleManchesterPhoto Feature

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Follow our RSS feed
Union Leader app for Apple iPad or Android *
Click to download from Apple Apps StoreClick to download from Android Marketplace
* e-Edition subscription required