Quick actions of physicians, PNC Park staff saved man's life
September 2, 2009 4:00 AM
Charles Trimble of Corry, Erie County, talks from his bed at Allegheny General Hospital yesterday.
By Kaitlynn Riely Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
On a cloudy Sunday at PNC Park, during the third inning of a game between the Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds, Charles Trimble died and was brought back to life.
Mr. Trimble, 60, of Corry, Erie County, suffered a cardiac arrest, and for 10 to 15 minutes on Aug. 23 he had no pulse.
"He was dead," said Dr. Jerome Granato, the medical director of the Coronary Care Unit at Allegheny General Hospital. "You can only stay dead for a limited amount of time before the organs are irreversibly damaged."
A lifelong Reds fan, Mr. Trimble was at the afternoon game with his wife, Sharon, and their 4-year-old grandson.
As the game was under way, Mrs. Trimble took their grandson to buy a toy. While they were gone, her husband started feeling short of breath. The family in front of him asked if he was OK, but instead of answering, he slumped over in his seat and his face turned gray.
Luckily for him, the president and scientific director of Allegheny General Hospital's Allegheny-Singer Research Institute was sitting 40 feet away. He saw the situation and rushed over to perform CPR and chest compressions.
After a few minutes of compressions, Dr. Christopher Post, a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist and a colonel in the Army Reserves, saw Mr. Trimble, a retired Air Force major, grimace. It was a good sign, he said.
PNC staff members and paramedics arrived with a portable defibrillator, one of more than a dozen in the ballpark. PNC staff members are trained for these types of situations, said Dennis DaPra, PNC Park executive vice president and general manager. They comforted Mrs. Trimble and took her information, and led her grandson away to get him popcorn and a slushie.
Mr. Trimble was taken to Allegheny General Hospital in an ambulance, and PNC Park employees drove Mrs. Trimble and her car to meet him.
At the hospital, doctors lowered Mr. Trimble's body temperature several degrees to allow his organs to recover and avoid damage. He experienced some problems in the early stages of his recovery, resulting from limited blood supply to his kidneys, liver and brain in the minutes his heart wasn't pumping. He had pneumonia symptoms and was on oxygen for a few days.
But yesterday, he was sitting up in bed, surrounded by family members, and talking. He doesn't remember anything from the baseball game, but his doctors said the short-term memory loss is to be expected.
"The reason Mr. Trimble is alive today, without a doubt, is the effective care he received at PNC Park," Dr. Granato said. "Without it, Mr. Trimble would almost assuredly be dead, or seriously incapacitated."
Nine out of 10 people who experience cardiac arrest outside of the hospital die or suffer serious organ damage, he said.
Through tears, Mr. Trimble described how thankful he was to Dr. Post for responding so quickly.
"He was a total stranger, and I'm just fortunate that he was in attendance and knew what to do," he said.
Mr. Trimble had no history of cardiac events, and today his doctors plan to do a biopsy of his heart to figure out what happened. His doctors at Allegheny General also plan to install an implantable defibrillator, a small device that will deliver a shock to his heart should it happen again -- a type of "fire insurance," Dr. Granato said.
In his hospital room yesterday, Mr. Trimble wore a Pirates cap -- an homage to the park and the people who gave him his life back. He's still a Reds fan at heart, though.
"I'm thankful to the Pirates -- they were instrumental. I'm not saying the Reds wouldn't have done the same," he said jokingly. "But I owe my life to the ballpark."