It was a typical Saturday morning for 50-year-old Doug Dunn, a well-respected country singer/songwriter from Virginia Beach. He poured a cup of coffee and headed into his recording studio. Moments later, he began to experience severe chest pain and laid down. Almost immediately, he knew something was seriously wrong, so he got up and asked a friend to call 9-1-1.
Before long, the room was filled with first responders – EMTs, firemen and police officers. Lucie “Tex” Ford, a 12-year member of VBVRS, was the lead Paramedic, joined by Princess Anne Courthouse Volunteer Rescue Squad members Tara Allison, Patrick Henry and Rick Peters.
“They started working on me and put me on a stretcher,” Doug recalls. “I was conscious all the way to the hospital, and I argued with Tex over just about everything. But she stayed completely calm. The last thing I remember is hearing a solid tone on the EKG.”
Doug’s EKG was sent to the ER in advance of his arrival at Virginia Beach General, and Cardiologist Dr. James Miller and Physician Assistant Dan Yon were waiting at the ambulance bay doors. While moving Doug from the EMS stretcher to the ER bed, he coded, going into ventricular fibrillation (VF).
“We ended up shocking him 12 times,” Tex explains. “We would get his pulse back, but it was never steady. It was a really difficult situation, because he could hear the alarm on the monitor each time he went into VF. He kept saying ‘Tex, don’t do it! The cardiologist would give the order to shock him, and I would push the button. I can’t imagine the pain, but if we hadn’t done it, he would have died.
“After the twelfth shock, his rhythm finally stabilized, and Tex and the VB EMS crew watched as he was wheeled back to the cath lab.
Over the next several days, Doug experienced flash pulmonary edema, a serious after-affect of the heart attack that left him unconscious, intubated and on life support. He was eventually released from the hospital 11 days later.
It wasn’t until December 2013 when the Cardiology PA Dan told Tex that a former patient had written a book about his cardiac arrest experience. Tex tracked down a copy of “Nine Words in Heaven” by Doug Dunn and read it immediately.“It was shocking to read it at first,” Tex says. “It blew me away to know I played a part in his story, but it also helped me understand what happened from his perspective.”
Tex reached out to Doug but was disappointed when she didn’t hear back for nearly a year. When they finally connected in December 2014, it was an emotional reunion where the two bonded over the experience.
“It’s amazing how one incident can really impact your life,” says Tex. “If things had gone according to plan, I wouldn’t have been on duty that day, but I was supposed to be there. Caring for Doug changed me as a person and provider.”
As for Doug, he feels extremely lucky to be alive. The type of heart attack he experienced is commonly referred to as a Widow Maker, because few people survive it. His advice? “Appreciate every person and experience you encounter, because you never know when or if you’ll see that person or get to do that thing you love to do again.”