Dougherty officer credits Phoebe as lifesaver
Captain Ken Faust survives heart attack thanks to timely cardiac care
ALBANY, GA – On a recent Sunday night at his home outside of Sasser, Ken Faust knew something was wrong; however, he had no way of knowing just how endangered his life was nor the lengths to which healthcare professionals at Phoebe would go to save him.
As the Uniform Division Commander for the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office and a 30-year veteran of the department, Capt. Faust has dealt with a lot of emergencies, but he had never experienced a personal medical crisis. “I’ve never had any cardiac problems at all. My blood pressure has always been normal,” Faust, 51, said. “I was diagnosed with diabetes 17 years ago, but other than that, I’ve never had any real health issues.”
That changed the night of May 8. Faust’s wife, Billi, was out of town, and after he put their daughter to bed, he felt some tightness in his chest. As he went to bed, the problem got worse. “When I laid down, if felt like someone had stabbed an icepick in my jaw,” he said.
Faust called a relative to come pick up 7-year-old Lyndie, and then he called 911. Thanks to technology donated to area emergency medical services agencies by the Phoebe Foundation, the Terrell County EMS crew who responded to Faust’s call was able to transmit his real-time electrocardiogram results to Phoebe’s main emergency center. Those results showed he was having a STEMI (ST-elevation myocardial infarction), the most serious and deadliest form of heart attack.
“He was clearly having a heart attack, so the ER activated our STEMI protocol,” said Mark Cohen, MD, Interventional Cardiologist and Medical Director for Cardiology at Phoebe. The STEMI team was waiting for Faust when the ambulance arrived, and it’s a good thing because as the EMS crew rolled him in, he went into cardiac arrest.
“He just kept going into ventricular fibrillation which is when your heart beats about 400 times a minute. When you have a heart attack that kills you, that’s usually what happens,” Dr. Cohen said.
The ER team began shocking Faust with a defibrillator over and over and over again, trying to get his heart back in rhythm. Between shocks, they continually performed CPR to keep his blood flowing. “I died multiple times, and the folks at Phoebe went above and beyond to bring me back,” Faust said.
The team shocked Faust more than 50 times in the ER before moving him to the cath lab where he was shocked 20 additional times before Dr. Cohen was able to get a catheter into his arteries. “I don’t think I’ve ever taken someone into the cath lab while we’re doing CPR on them and had them survive,” Dr. Cohen said. “It was pretty stunning.”
Dr. Cohen found two major arteries that were almost completely blocked. He placed stents in both of them to restore blood flow, but Faust wasn’t out of the woods yet. “With an attack this severe, even if we get the patient out of the cath lab, if you don’t have a good critical care team in place, they may not make it. You’ve got to have meticulous critical care,” Dr. Cohen said.
The critical care team got Faust through the perilous next 24 hours, and – despite enduring 45 minutes of CPR – he suffered no brain damage. “He had no effective cardiac output, so all he had to keep his blood flowing was CPR. Obviously, it was very effective because it kept his neurological function completely intact,” Dr. Cohen said.
Faust said, throughout the entire ordeal, he was never afraid. “I’m a Christian. I’m a deacon in my church. I know where I’m going, so I never had any stress,” he said. “I know it’s a miracle I survived. All the glory goes to God and the folks He gave the ability to bring me back around.”
Faust hopes his story inspires others to take heart attack symptoms seriously. “If you’re having chest pains, do not hesitate to call 911 to get medical help. Don’t let pride be the death of you.”
Last year, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital became the first Georgia hospital south of Macon to earn designation as a Level 1 Emergency Cardiac Care Center by the Georgia Department of Public Health. Dr. Cohen believes Faust’s case is a great example of what that designation means for patients. “If he hadn’t called the paramedics when he did, if they hadn’t gotten to him quickly, if the ER hadn’t had 15 people ready to work on him, if we hadn’t had the skilled cath lab team to handle a difficult intervention and the critical care team working on him during that critical 24-hour period, he wouldn’t have survived,” Dr. Cohen said. “I’ve never seen anyone get shocked that many times and be able to walk out of the hospital. It truly takes a village.”
Capt. Faust is extremely grateful for that village. He’s thankful he was able to return home to his wife and little girl and 19-year-old son, and he’s anxious to return to work at the sheriff’s office next week.
“I’m up and doing good. I feel fine,” Faust said. “I can’t say enough about Phoebe. They’re good folks. They cared. They could have given up after shock number 30, but they didn’t, and that’s why I’m still here today.”