Doctors save colleague who had heart attack

February 9, 2011 6:05:46 PM PST
We hear that someone had a "sudden death" heart attack, and we think it can't happen to us. But we have an amazing story of a man who'd never had a heart problem and the people who were in the right place to save him -- and his young daughter who witnessed it all.

"All the sudden, I heard kind of like a boom," Sophie Daily said. "I looked back and you were on the ground."

She was showing her father where he collapsed on the floor at Memorial Hermann Hospital.

"I just started calling for help," she said.

Emergency Physician David Robinson happened to be nearby.

"We rolled him over, he wasn't breathing. We started CPR," Robinson said.

The CPR went on and on, but his heart wouldn't start.

"There was a moment I remember looking at him on the ground in the hallway and looking at her and thinking of my kid," Dr. Robinson said.

More doctors ran to help. They moved him to the ER.

"They were resuscitating him beautifully but he was not getting back," Dr. Ali Denktas said.

People began to recognize him.

"A medical student said I know that guy, he's one of my professors," Dr. Robinson said.

The patient was Dr. William Daily, an employee of Memorial Hermann and anesthesiology teacher at the UT medical school. Dr. Daily's heart attack that day was caused by a 100 percent blockage in a major artery. His heart would have never restarted.

So his cardiologist did something rarely done. He opened the blockage while they continued CPR.

"He died in front of his nine-year-old daughter, and I have a daughter, and I heard about the story and I said we're not letting this guy die," Dr. Denktas said.

When the artery was open, his heart finally started. Dr. Daily had been given CPR for 46 long minutes that day.

"What's his brain function going to be like, and of course, nobody knew that for a few days," Dr. Evan Pivalizza said.

To protect his brain doctors also cooled him and put him in an artificial coma. It worked. That was two years ago.

Today, Dr. Daily is back in the operating room and teaching.

"My chest hurt afterwards after I got home but it was pain well worth it," he said. "Had I not been here with immediate starting of CPR and the other supportive maneuvers, I certainly would have died."

"Just a miracle that he came through so well. In fact, he had stopped breathing. His heart had stopped," Dr. Robinson said. "He was dead."

Dr. Daily was not a likely heart attack patient at age 51 and thin.

"Totally out of the blue. I'd never had any chest pains. I'd never had any episodes of shortness of breath, nothing. I had gone skiing the year before. I was staying fairly physically active," Dr. Daily said.

But his story has given everyone here a heads up. It can happen to you.

"You never really know what could be going on in your heart until you get it looked at," Dr. Robinson said.

"It was extremely scary," Sophie Daily said. "I didn't know if that was going to be the last time I would see him. I was so confused and devastated."

Sophie Daily was standing over her father while the doctors were trying to save him. It was a sight all who were there that day will never forget.

"After going through this experience, I appreciate my family more than I did before and like the fact that my current job as an anesthesiologist, maybe I'll help people through their own tough times," Dr. Daily said.