Dick Winters, a cardiac arrest patient, poses with Julia Rouse, a nursing student from Carolinas College of Health Sciences who saved his life.

News | 2 years ago

A Cyclist Who Went into Sudden Cardiac Arrest was Saved Thanks to CPR

Dick Winters is an avid cyclist who was in good health. But while he was out on a ride one day, he went into sudden cardiac arrest. Luckily, Julia Rouse was in the right place at the right time and saw Dick surrounded by his cycling group. Sensing the need for help, she pulled over and was able to provide CPR, ultimately saving his life.

Dick Winters is an avid cyclist who rides his bike 4-5 times a week for an average of 20+ miles each day. At 70 years old, he joined the COCAC 5:15 ride to find a group of like-minded cycling enthusiasts in Charlotte, who have been riding together for over 15 years. But one morning, things didn’t go as planned when Dick suddenly fell off his bike and hit the ground. The five other people who were riding with him gathered on a median on Johnston Road, just north of Highway 51. One cyclist in the group called 911 and waited for help to arrive. But before the cavalry of paramedics, firefighters, and police officers arrived on the scene, one woman happened to drive by, and she knew exactly what needed to be done. 

A chance encounter with life-saving results 

Julia Rouse is a recent graduate of the nursing program at Carolinas College of Health Sciences who previously served as a paramedic for many years. She was driving into Charlotte one day to teach an advanced cardiac life support class – she’d taken a different route than usual because the back roads were foggy – when she saw the group of cyclists on the side of the road. 

“I’m pretty equipped to help with emergencies,” Julia says. She thought maybe someone had been hit by a car, so she pulled over to see how she could help, explaining her background as a paramedic and training as a nurse.  

When Julia saw Dick, he was struggling to breathe and unconscious. She felt for his pulse and went to get her equipment that she happened to have on-hand from her car, putting one of the other bike riders in charge of monitoring Dick’s pulse. She came back with her equipment, checked Dick’s pulse, and felt it stop. She immediately started CPR, enlisting the help another rider, talking him through how to do CPR as they performed it.

Shortly after, the Charlotte fire department, police department, and MEDIC showed up and continued to administer CPR to Dick. The paramedics determined that Dick had experienced sudden cardiac arrest. They administered medicine to him, intubated him, and revived him with a defibrillator. Then, they took him to nearby Atrium Health Pineville.

The importance of CPR

“I was riding with five other people, but it appears I was the only one who knew CPR!,” says Dick. “If Julia hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t be sharing this story.”

“If you ever see somebody who is unconscious, check for a pulse and start CPR,” says Ashleigh Maiers, MD, a cardiologist with Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute - Pineville who cared for Dick in the ICU. “When in doubt, do chest compressions and call for help. It's always better if people try, most of the time, even if the CPR is not perfect.”

“I was raised to be a helper, and one of the ways I do that is by performing CPR and teaching it to other people,” says Julia. “Anyone can learn CPR.”

Cardiac arrest protocol helps prevent further damage

Once Dick arrived at the hospital, a “Code Cool”, or hypothermia protocol, was initiated.

“The hypothermia protocol is done on anyone who survives a cardiac arrest from outside of the hospital,” says Dr. Maiers.

The protocol, which involves sedating a patient and keeping him at a reduced temperature for 24 hours, can help improve chances of survival, prevent organ damage and help improve neurological function.

Although Dick was unconscious when he arrived at the hospital, his wife and family arrived soon after, and helped the team at Atrium Health Pineville piece together what had happened.

“As soon as I heard that he’d had someone there who called 911 immediately, and that Julia was on the scene to evaluate Dick and start CPR, I knew that his chances of survival were very good,” says Dr. Maiers. “The fact that Julia was there is really the reason he is alive today."

Getting back in the saddle

About 12 hours after Dick was brought back up to normal body temperature and brought out of his medically induced coma, he was alert and talking – although he didn’t remember the ordeal he’d just been through.

“My cardiac arrest happened on a Monday, and I don’t remember anything until the following Saturday,” he says.

Dr. Maiers did a full evaluation and found that “structurally, everything was normal” and there were no blockages in Dick’s heart. He did have PVCs, or premature ventricular contractions, which are extra beats that originate in the heart’s lower chambers. As a precaution, Dick had a defibrillator implanted by the team at Atrium Health Pineville.

“The defibrillator will monitor Dick’s heart, and if he has another cardiac incident, the defibrillator will shock his heart and save his life,” explains Dr. Maiers.  

As for Julia, she’s excited to start her new career as a nurse at the neuro ICU at Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center. She even gave Dick the honors of pinning her at her pinning ceremony when she graduated from Carolinas College of Health Sciences. Julia also continues to teach CPR classes to the community and even taught two to the COAC group, which Dick and his wife attended.

Dick is back to riding his bike again – although, since he recently retired, he says “I’m not setting my alarm at 4:20 AM to get out there!”

To learn more about Atrium Health’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute’s expert heart care, click here.

As part of a community initiative, Atrium Health is teaming up with Novant Health and MEDIC to offer CPR trainings and a life-saving phone app, PulsePoint. Learn more about how you can save a life here.