By Rachel Jones STAFF WRITER Mark Edmunds had been swimming for 12 hours straight, crossing the Catalina Channel to Long Beach. About a mile from shore, his body temperature dropped and he went into cardiac arrest. Edmunds was pulled into the boat that was trailing him and taken to Little Company of Mary San Pedro Hospital. After performing CPR for an hour to no avail, exhausted nurses pulled in security guard Jose Cuervo to do chest compressions. Soon, they found a pulse. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREChargers go winless in AFC West with season-ending loss in Kansas City“I kept going and the doc brought in the ultrasound and did an ultrasound with the screen right there, and I saw his heart start beating,” Cuervo recalled. “It was amazing.” The 41-year-old swimmer’s vitals slowly improved, and he finally warmed from his hypothermic state. Thanks to the hospital staff and the critical assistance from Cuervo, Edmunds left the hospital Sept.29, after a 19-day stay, and went home to Bethesda, Md., with his family. The impact of his recovery, which some are calling a miracle, will be felt at the hospital for a long time. Dr. David Mu oz, the emergency room doctor who treated Edmunds, recalled the swimmer’s terrible prognosis. “I don’t think anybody believed that he was going to make it out of it,” Mu oz said. “When he came in, he was blue.” Edmunds’ body temperature was 80degrees when he arrived at the hospital, and he had been without a pulse for 45 minutes. He also had a flat electroencephalogram, as if he were brain dead. However, doctors knew not to give up until his body was warm. “We proceeded to start warming him,” recalled emergency room nurse Joan Mostert-DiColla. “He just hung in there. I kept telling everybody, `He doesn’t want to die today.”‘ Nurses warmed Edmunds to get him out of a fatal arrhythmia, then let the room temperature warm him as his heart rhythm stabilized. “It was like a real team save because every person did what they were supposed to do,” said nurse Peggy O’Donnell, who was in the CPR line on the day Edmunds was admitted. Dr. Herb Webb, who treated Edmunds during his hospital stay, couldn’t get over the two-sided effect of Edmund’s hypothermia. “It’s what killed him but saved him,” Webb said. “The hypothermia caused him to have a fatal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. But it also protected his brain from the injury of no oxygen.” Edmunds spent the next two weeks recovering from pneumonia and rhabdomyolysis, a potentially fatal condition in which skeletal muscles break down and which injured his kidneys. He will have to undergo dialysis at home in Maryland, but probably for only a few weeks, Webb said. Edmunds’ family, including his wife, Terri, and his father, Philip, said they were profoundly grateful to the hospital staff. “This is about the emergency room people not giving up, and then calling who they had to just to get the job done,” Edmunds said. “You wouldn’t think to call the security guard. It’s out-of-the-box thinking that kept me going.” The experienced long-distance swimmer, who had been participating in an event with a channel swimming organization, doesn’t have any more such events on his calendar yet and is still dealing with his near-death experience. “It’s kind of hard to comprehend that I literally was gone for that period of time and now I’m not,” he said. “It’s just hard to grasp.” “We believe in miracles,” Terri Edmunds said. Those who treated Edmunds all came away with different lessons. For O’Donnell, it was “don’t give up.” For Mu oz, it was “miracles happen.” For Webb, it was “everyone did their job.” Most importantly, they joked, their Jose Cuervo, who stands 6 feet 4 inches and weighs 295 pounds, is stronger than the tequila. “I ain’t no hero,” Cuervo insisted. “There’s a lot of people involved.” He admitted, however, that he gets emotional when thinking about how he helped save Edmunds’ life. “Aside from marrying my wife and having kids, this is it,” he said. “That was amazing.” Cuervo also said the event will not change how he does his job, which he took to give something back to the hospital after it had helped him. “I was in recovery here 13 years ago,” he explained. “So every day I come in, I try to do something for somebody … whether it’s go up and sit with a psych patient and talk to them, or go to the chemical dependency and talk to them. It’s rewarding.” [email protected]
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