Mercy Health Providers Reunite with Patient After Life-Saving Event

Kevin Mitchell (center) reunites with the medical team at Mercy Health’s Southwest Emergency Department after he suffered a heart attack in the parking lot in mid-May. Mitchell was able to watch his daughter’s high school graduation just weeks after the heart attack thanks to the life-saving efforts by the Mercy Health team.

Kevin Mitchell doesn’t remember much about Saturday, May 15, 2021. Security footage shows he walked around his vehicle, then collapsed before being found in the parking lot at Mercy Health’s Southwest Campus Emergency Department. Earlier in the day, Mitchell went for a long mountain bike ride. He wasn’t feeling well after the ride, so he called his son in California and told him he felt like he had heartburn. The rest of that day and the few days following his heart attack, were a blur.

Mercy Health physician Audrey Adkins, DO, remembers everything about that day very clearly.

“I was about to go in to see a patient, and I remember hearing Mallory (RN) yell that someone was down in the parking lot,” said Dr. Adkins. When I got there, I saw Jena (RN) doing chest compressions on Kevin. We repositioned him and opened his airway and took turns doing CPR, joined shortly after by Mallory, Karin, and Caitlin (RNs).”

The team assessed Mitchell – recognizing he didn’t have a pulse, his lips were blue, and his face was grey in color.

Nurse Jena Navis, RN, from the Mercy Health Southwest Campus was first on scene in the parking lot. She started CPR until others arrived.

“Everybody had a role and they just did it,” said Navis.  “When I was out there by myself it was the longest two to three minutes, which felt like a lifetime.”

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday and Kevin was flat on the asphalt in the parking lot. In the staff’s opinion, it was really a strange but ideal place to do CPR. The team was able to roll out the emergency room crash cart to Kevin’s location and perform cardiac defibrillation, give airway assistance, administer medications and establish an IV all from the parking lot allowing for no interruptions in CPR.

The team felt that moving him would take time away from doing CPR, which could have ultimately changed the outcome.

“It really was a great team effort,” Dr. Adkins said. “Seeing him today with color in his face, walking and talking to us is just awesome.”

In their reunion at the Mercy Health Southwest Campus just weeks after his heart attack and receiving cardiac stents, Dr. Adkins told Mitchell while smiling, “You’re the first person I’ve ever done CPR on in a parking lot.”

Mitchell, joined by his wife, Mar, thanked the staff with tears in their eyes. Hugs were shared and laughs were exchanged as the happy reunion was one the medical team does not always get to have.

“I think all of us had a pit in our stomach when he left wondering what was going to happen,” said Dr. Adkins. “We were all grateful we got Kevin’s pulses back, but knew his life was tenuous at that point. If he survived we were unsure what his neurologic return would be, knowing that patients statistically (after an unwitnessed cardiac arrest with unknown downtime), do not typically have such a miraculous and fast recovery.”

Dr. Adkins remembers calling and talking to Mar while Kevin was still in the hospital. Kevin told her on speaker phone from his hospital bed, “you guys did a good job, my chest is really sore.”

“He’s a tough guy and pulled through and it’s probably his baseline health, exercise and biking that got him through that,” said Dr. Adkins. “It was pretty incredible and I’m glad that we had such good teamwork.”

The team effort was seamless and involved several staff members. Senior security officer Heather Lemmen stepped in as one of the first on scene providing a gurney and crash cart and helped log everything for Mitchell’s medical chart.  Registered Nurses Caitlin Dame, Mallory Vander Kooi, Karin DeKorver from the Mercy Health team – along with Byron Center Fire Department EMT’s Martin Tilman and Ben Nichols also arrived on scene to assist.

“It was wonderful seeing all of them,” said Mitchell. “For us to say thank you is a big deal. My thing is: we have a family with children and to be there for them is a big deal. The work you all do is incredible. You should feel proud of the work you do. You really make a difference.”

Just a few weeks after his heart attack, Mitchell left Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Center, and that same day attended his daughter’s graduation from Jenison High School.

Mitchell is a father of five with three adult children and two adopted teenagers. The Mitchells thanked his life-saving team repeatedly in their reunion, saying he didn’t know what else to say to the people who gave him a second chance at life.  

“When in doubt have it checked. Get somewhere you can get care. I don’t know how I felt but it must have been strange enough for me to get help,” said Mitchell. “With cardiac events you’re talking minutes between. If I had tried to drive home, I’m not sure I would have made it. These (Mercy Health staff) are just wonderful people and they really should be proud of the work they do. What a change in my life. I mean I have a life because of them.”

To see more of the reunion with Mercy Health’s medical team and Kevin Mitchell click below:

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