Quick thinking, proper equipment and having the right people in the right place at the right time are what saved the life of 39-year-old Marcelo Aguero of Windsor, who suffered cardiac arrest on the tennis court of Petaluma Valley Athletic Club on April 23.
It was a singles tennis match between the Fountain Grove Athletic Club's men's tennis team of Santa Rosa and the Petaluma Valley Athletic Club's men's team that brought Regal Wine Company vice president Aguero and paramedic/fire engineer Tony Giacomini to the PVA courts that day.
"I remember warming up," said Aguero. "I felt like a champ that day. I didn't have any symptoms. But at 3:30 p.m., it was pretty much lights out."
Patient throws thank-you party
....A box of whole-grain cheerios, incorporating a heart design into a heart-healthy nutrition message.
Nina Zhito photol.
Petaluman and Marin County paramedic Tony Giacomoni, left, listens as Marcelo Arguelo describes his care at Petaluma Valley Hospital, following the cardiac arrest he suddenly suffered during an April tennis tournament. In an instant, Giacomini switched from competitor to compassionate, delivering life-saving care on the court, and turning Angelo into an evangelist for CPR instruction. July 14, 2011. Nina Zhito photo.
Petaluma Valley Hospital ICU nurse Jean Marie Zak-Magnon drinks in the sight of her former patient, Marcelo Aguero, at a reunion of the medical professionals --including lead Emergency Department nurse Ben Schneider, left-- who tended to Aguero after he was resuscitated April 23. ¬†Zak-Magnon notes a curious coincidence right before her shift: Zak-Magnon had a deeply vivid dream that her own husband suffered a cardiac arrest that awakened her as she was labored to resuscitate him. ¬†Disturbed and unable to go back to sleep, Zak-Magnon went about her day... which subsequently brought her patient Marcelo Aguero with whose wife Dana she shared a powerful connection. ¬†"I just can't see enough of him," says Zak-Magnon, of Aguero, "It's amazing to see him right here."¬†Nina Zhito photo.
Marcelo Arguelo gestures as he describes his cardiac event and recovery, as wife Dana smiles and listens during the newlyweds' reunion with her husband's hospital caregivers. Since Arguelo's successful treatment required a medically- induced coma, Arguelo retained no memory of his experience at Petaluma Valley Hospital. Nina Zhito photo.
ICU veteran Nancy Corda congratulates Petaluman and Marin County Fire Engineer / paramedic Tony Giacomini for quick thinking and good skill on the tennis court April 23, when he morphed from tennis pro to action hero, administering CPR and debrillation to a suddenly, perhaps mortally stricken opponent. The loud thud Giacomini heard while his back was turned wasn't a tennis racket being thrown in frustration as he first suspected: It was instead Marcelo Arguelo, who had fallen face first onto the court, without a heartbeat. "I wanted to win", laughs Tony, "but not that badly." Giacomini was one up in score at the time if Arguelo's mishap. A rematch hasn't been scheduled, but both men promise that it will occur. Nina Zhito photo.
Former patient Marcelo Aguero offers his heartfelt appreciation to
ED lead nurse Ben Schneider, during a reunion visit 7/14/2011 to thank the people who saved his life on April 23. 2011. Nina Zhito photo.
Dr. Rick Tietz, Emergency Department physician, smiles at left as the Arguelo family returns Thursday July 14, 2011 to thank the team who saved Marcelo Arguelo --the husband of Dana Arguelo, who hugging ICU nurse and stalwart Jean Marie Zak-Magnon at foreground. Nina Zhito photo.
Former Petaluma Valley Hospital Marcelo Aguero, 39, displays a lucky talisman he keeps with him since the cardiac event and subsequent miracle of his resuscitation on April 23: The Aguero and his wife Dana returned to the hospital today July 14, 2011, to meet and to thank the team of doctors and nurses responsible for his successful outcome.
Former cardiac patient Marcelo Aguero, 39, shakes hands with his emergency caregivers, including Emergency Department physician Dr. Margaret Peacock at Petaluma Valley Hospital during a reunion for the Arguelo family to say "thank you" Thursday July 14, 2011. Dr. Peacock laughs as she apologized for needing to insert a chest tube to treat Aguero's collapsed lung. Nina Zhito Photo.
Outside Petaluma Valley Hospital's Emergency Department, Dana Arguelo shows caregivers how her husband Marcelo Aguero's surgical incisions have healed since his treatment there for a life-threatening sudden cardiac event on April 23, 2011. Since his successful treatment and returning to work, Arguelo has become an activist for the CPR and AED (defibrillator) education that no-doubt saved his own life. Rapid intervention on the part of a knowledgable first responder -- in this case, a paramedic coincidentally assigned to Arguello as a tennis opponent in a tournament -- makes all the difference in the world in reducing cardiac mortality, according to ED physician Rick Tietz, one of the Arguelo's caregivers. Nina Zhito photo.
Dana Aguero recalls the terrible uncertainty in the hours following her husband Marcelo's collapse on the tennis court during a tournament that providentially matched the unknown cardiac patient with a trained paramedic, Petaluman Tony Giacomini, who sped into action. "Every moment of that day, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time," she recalled. "There definitely was someone looking out for him."
Nina Zhito photo.
Giacomini was leading Aguero by one game in their tennis match when Aguero collapsed.
"He came in for the ball, hit it and it went out of bounds," said Giacomini, a Petaluma resident. "I went to get the ball and I heard him fall. When I turned around I saw him face down on the ground."
He ran over to Aguero to check his breathing and immediately started CPR. Giacomini's wife, who had seen the incident, rushed to get the portable automated external defibrillator, which PVAC keeps on the premises.
"I got CPR and defibrillation twice, once from Giacomini and once from responding paramedics," said Aguero. "But I had no heartbeat for 20 minutes. On the way to Petaluma Valley Hospital, two minutes before arrival at the emergency room, they finally got a heartbeat."
The whole incident came as a shock, since Aguero has no history of heart problems. He said he even had a physical just two months before having a heart attack.
Once in the ER, Dr. Rick Tietz diagnosed Aguero with sudden cardiac arrest, caused by ventricular fibrillation, which is a severely abnormal heart rhythm that interferes with the normal pumping by the heart of blood, thereby cutting off blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. According to a study by the National Institute of Health, the survival rate of ventricular fibrillation outside the hospital ranges from 2 percent to 25 percent.
"Giacomini starting the defibrillator immediately was key," said Tietz.