Forty-year-old John Babista, of Woodridge, is a nurse. However after crossing the finish line at a Hammond triathlon, he suffered a heart attack and became the patient.
“What had happened to me is shocking but I am very thankful to everybody and especially to our good Lord that I am still here to tell our story,” says John.
John, who for the past four years has trained year round for races, was competing in Wolf Lake’s Leon’s Triathlon back in June.
John’s wife Alma, who is also a nurse, was with their two sons, ages 15 and 8, at the finish line cheering John on.
“As I saw him coming to the finish line, I was relieved. I was standing by the arch and he gave his sons his signature airplane run before he crossed the finish line - I even took pictures of him. Then we walked and as I tried to find him, my brother-in-law, yelled, 'Kuya (big brother) is on the ground,'" says Alma, who still gets emotional
when speaking about the experience. “I called out his name, but he was losing consciousness and gasping for air. I cried for help and yelled, ‘check his pulse’. People all around were helping: doing CPR, hugging me and hugging my kids. It was the longest minute of my life.”
Karen Callahan, R.N. at Franciscan St. Margaret Health-Hammond Emergency Department, says the team in the Emergency Department were prepared to deal with John’s grave condition when he arrived due to a phone call the department’s Emergency Medical Services had made to them.
“The staff in the ED that day work every other weekend together for years and we just ‘click’ when it comes to critical situations. We know what each other does best and we flow in a methodical, systematic way. John was our focus from the minute we received the EMS call,” says Callahan.
Once John arrived he received a therapeutic hypothermia treatment from the hospital staff that is new to Northwest Indiana. The treatment is performed by covering a patient’s back, chest and legs in cooling pads. Cooling the body helps to preserve the brain and heart. The process decreases the body’s metabolic rate, which protects the brain from neurotoxins that usually attack 24 to 48 hours after cardiac arrest.
“Therapeutic hypothermia is fairly new to the staff at Franciscan St. Margaret Health. We were in-serviced approximately 6 months prior and John was the first patient I personally had to start it on,” says Callahan.
John was hospitalized at Franciscan St. Margaret Health-Hammond hospital for nearly 3 weeks.
After undergoing a slew of tests back home it was discovered that John’s right artery was 100% blocked, the left artery was almost 100% blocked and the posterior artery was more than 25% blocked.
“It sounds strange because I have an active lifestyle and live healthy and still got those blockages in my heart. We are convinced that it is genetics since a few of my family members have had heart bypass surgery in the past.”
Fortunately, John was able to resolve his heart problems without open-heart surgery. After five and half months of rehabilitation, John successfully completed his Cardiac Rehabilitation Exercise Program on Nov. 21 and returned to work Nov 25.
Alma says there were countless people who provided support and made John’s recovery possible including visits from Leon’s Triathlon founder, Leon Wolek.
“Our family is very thankful to all first responders, paramedics, co-cyclists, co-workers, staff at St. Margaret Hospital, Catholic Charities, Chicago Asian Running Endurance, family and friends. They all became our immediate family, who provided us with everything to make our life easier while John was in the hospital,” says Alma. “Of course the whole hospital staff - we are so glad we ended up at St. Margaret. They are all God’s instruments.”
Callahan says as an ER nurse she rarely sees the outcomes of critical patients, due to most times they are not good outcomes.
“I have been an ER Nurse here for 27 years and John, his story, his family and the true spirit of how the whole hospital pulled together is something I will never forget,” says Callahan. “John is a miracle and I am so blessed to have been a part of that miracle.”