March 7, 2013
Jim Martek, a local high school basketball referee had a recent brush with death, but thanks to Melissa Hudecki, an Athletic Trainer with Catholic Health’s AthletiCare Program, he will live to see another day.
On the evening of January 4, Martek was officiating a girl’s high school basketball game between Mount Mercy Academy and Christian Central Academy, when he suddenly collapsed to the floor.
“The last thing I remember was walking into the locker room to get dressed. And then the next thing, I was waking up in ICU,” said Martek, a 54 year-old mortgage risk manager from Lancaster, NY.
Luckily for Martek, trainer Melissa Hudecki, whom he has known for years through area sports circles, sprang into action.
Realizing he had experienced what she thought was an apparent heart attack, she called upon her Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training and the use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED) to revive him. Buffalo firefighters then stepped in to continue the resuscitation efforts.
Dr. Catalina Ionita
Dr. Robbie Wall
By lowering his body temperature, Dr. Ionita was able to stabilize Martek’s critical condition.
When he woke up two days later, he had no recollection of what had happened.
“We use the hypothermia treatment to protect the brain in the resuscitation process,” said Dr. Ionita.
Before going home on January 10, Martek had a chance to thank Hudecki and his caregivers during a reunion planned at the hospital. A gathering of staff and news reporters watched as the two met eyes and embraced. With an outpouring of emotion, Martek told her, “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here.” He called her his “Angel of Mercy.”
According to Cardiologist Dr. Rob Wall, who was also on hand for the reunion, Martek’s event was caused by an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
He noted, “The death rate associated with what Mr. Martek experienced is very high. Only less than five percent of people actually survive, and fortunately he is alive, and it started with Melissa.”
To prevent Martek from experiencing similar future events, Dr. Wall implanted a small heart monitoring device in Martek’s chest, similar to a pacemaker, that can detect an arrhythmia and immediately correct it by delivering energy to the heart.
Martek expressed extreme gratitude toward all of those involved in saving his life.
In an effort to “pay it forward,” he pledged that his new year’s resolution is to receive proper CPR training, so that one day, he may be able to save someone else’s life.
This article appeared in the February / March 2013 edition of Mercy Connection, the official newsletter of Mercy Hospital.