Textbook Teamwork

On February 6, 2015, Jeff Correll and two friends took a “snow day” at Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Pa. After several runs, the 30-year-old felt something wasn’t right so he took off his snowboard and sat down next to a ski patrol shack at the top of the hill. A nearby ski instructor noticed Jeff swaying as he sat, but she thought he was listening to music. Within seconds, Jeff fell to the ground and started convulsing. At the same time, a ski patroller in the shack saw Jeff fall and retrieved an automated external defibrillator or AED and with the help of another patroller started to work on Jeff.

A Pennsylvania physician also decided to take a snow day. Seconds after Jeff fell to the ground, Juliusz Nitecki, M.D., got off the ski lift and spotted Jeff, the AED and ski patrollers. Dr. Nitecki identified himself as a physician and offered to help. “I thought that the ski patrollers probably didn’t encounter too many cardiac arrests,” says Dr. Nitecki. But luckily for Jeff, two of the ski patrollers were emergency medical technicians.

While the Mercersburg Advanced Life Support Unit responded to the call, Dr. Nitecki continued to perform chest compressions. Unconscious and without a pulse, Jeff was shocked four times before he was strapped to a toboggan. Knowing that chest compressions must continue, Dr. Nitecki took off his ski boots, straddled Jeff and continued to work on his patient as a ski patroller transported them down the hill. “I thought he was gone,” says Dr. Nitecki.

Once in the ambulance, an IV was started and Jeff regained consciousness. He was airlifted to Meritus Medical Center and upon arrival, it was confirmed that Jeff had suffered a heart attack. Thirty minutes later, interventional cardiologist Payam Fallahi, M.D., performed an angioplasty to open Jeff’s artery. Two hours later, he was awake and talking. “It was unbelievable,” says Dr. Fallahi.

A heart attack was the last thing on Jeff Correll’s mind that Friday, but the quick-thinking first responders knew the signs of a heart attack and understood the importance of chest compressions. From the ski patrollers and Dr. Nitecki to EMS and Dr. Fallahi, all players helped save Jeff’s life. Cardiologists use the phrase, time is muscle because the longer the wait before having an angioplasty, the more heart tissue dies.

Jeff fell to the ground at 11:30 a.m. By 1:04 p.m., he was in Meritus Medical Center’s cardiac catheterization lab and Dr. Fallahi was opening up his artery. That’s the definition of teamwork.