Saved in the nick of time
A snazzy table-tennis shirt. That's what 69-year-old Rick Lee lost in his dealings with Rochester doctors Caitlin Loprinzi Brauer and Vindhan Chandra.
Chandra literally ripped it off him.
Now here is what Austin resident Lee gained when he was double-teamed by Loprinzi Brauer and Chandra the evening of March 27: His life.
Yes, Lee is still alive — and remarkably with no lasting ill effects — because doctors Loprinzi Brauer and Chandra were at the Rochester Community and Technical College fieldhouse that night, and knew just what to do.
They'd gathered that Wednesday night as part of the Rochester Table Tennis Club, a collection of about 100 people that the retired Lee has been giddily involved with the past 2 1/2 years. It was a tournament night. Lee had just finished a five-game match with one of his favorite club people, Federico Franchi.
The fun momentarily went out of Lee's table-tennis experience that evening. Just after his five-game match with Franchi, Lee took a few strides away from the table and abruptly went into cardiac arrest.
"All of a sudden I heard a crash," said Loprinzi Brauer, the former Rochester Mayo girls state tennis champion and graduate of Iowa State who has received her medical degree and is now working as an emergency medicine resident at Mayo Clinic.
It was just by chance that Loprinzi Brauer was even in the building. She, like Chandra and Lee, are members of the table tennis club. Loprinzi Brauer had recently undergone abdominal surgery, and showed up March 27 simply to watch her husband, Jesse Brauer, play.
"Jesse saw this guy laying on the ground, and he yelled to me to come help," Caitlin said.
That guy was Lee. The 69-year-old had no previous heart incidents, though he had been dealing with a nagging pain in his chest for a few years. On this night, it had particularly been bothering him.
It bothered him enough that it almost cost him his life, or at the least, life as he once knew it.
He can thank the 26-year-old Loprinzi Brauer and the 48-year-old Chandra — a general surgeon at Olmsted Medical Center — for that.
They're trained for this stuff, though they implore all to become CPR trained. And upon seeing Lee down on the ground, and slowly turning blue, they went right to work.
Chandra — who has known Lee for years — took care of the compressions on Lee's chest. Loprinzi Brauer was in charge of getting his airway set and giving him mouth-to-mouth. Loprinzi Brauer, a leader from way back, also tossed out some orders to the table tennis club members who gathered around them.
Her loudest instruction was for someone to run and find an AED (automated external defibrillator), an instrument that most recreational facilities are equipped with. They're portable devices that are applied to the chest, measure the rhythms of the heart, then apply a massive shock to it if necessary.
It was Chandra who, after delivering about nine minutes of exhausting compressions to Lee's chest, ripped open Lee's snazzy table-tennis shirt in order to apply the device.
The AED worked, as had all of Loprinzi Brauer's and Chandra's work.
"I woke up, and didn't know what had happened," Lee said. "When they told me, I didn't believe them. Those two were as calm and cool as ice. I woke up moaning and groaning about my shirt being ripped."
Lee isn't moaning and groaning these days. Instead he's feeling blessed. The odds of being without any neurological deficits after going into cardiac arrest are less than 10 percent. Though Lee has had three stents put into his arteries since the incident, and has to stay away from the ping-pong table until at least June, he says this is the best he's felt in years.
He's never been more thankful to be associated with the Rochester Table Tennis Club, which presented him the "Survivorship Trophy" during his hospital stay, and to have been in the hands of doctors Loprinzi Brauer and Chandra.
"If you are going to have a cardiac arrest, come to the Table Tennis Club, because these people are going to take care of you," he said. "This gives me a replay of my life. I'm taking a look at a lot of things. I'm smelling the flowers."