Published on April 08, 2018

Beverly Johnson - A Critical Procedure and Fast Recovery

Between family and work, Beverly Johnson is always on the go, but a life-threatening heart attack at the age of 47 was never in the plan. Thanks to the prompt and professional care she received from Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, Beverly is back to her life. On a Saturday evening in November 2015, Beverly was at home with her husband, Riel, and two teenage boys, James, 17, and Eric, 14. Shortly after she had gone to bed, she felt a sudden pain in her chest, followed by nausea and vomiting.   The pain grew worse, and she eventually passed out on the bathroom floor. Riel called 911 and the operator talked him through performing CPR. “My husband told the 911 operator that my lips were turning blue and that there was no pulse,” she said. “He started chest compressions and rescue breathing, continuing until the paramedics arrived.”

“When the paramedics hooked me up to the monitor, there was no pulse at all. They defibrillated me, got my heart going, then took me to the hospital.” The nurses in the Emergency Department (ED) were amazing, Beverly said. Even before she arrived in the ambulance, the nurses provided special attention to her distraught father, Leo Anselm, who had arrived minutes earlier to check on his daughter. “The nurses saw how upset he was and they were so attentive to him,” she said. “That meant a lot.”

Within minutes of hospital arrival, Beverly was rushed to the cardiac catheterization lab for an emergency angiogram.  It was determined that Beverly had suffered a spontaneous dissection of the left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery—a rare condition which can be immediately lethal. The cause is not known. “My cardiologist, Dr. Garabedian, explained in plain English that basically the layers in the artery come apart and cause the blockage, leading to full cardiac arrest.

“After the angiogram, they put me in a medically induced coma and cooled my body to very low temperatures.” 

This critical care procedure is referred to as “therapeutic hypothermia,” and the cooling process is used to prevent permanent brain damage, which often occurs after cardiac arrest.   “It was unknown at the time whether or not I would have brain damage, which fortunately I did not.” Beverly spent seven days in the hospital, most of them in the Intensive Care unit, where she said the nurses took great care of her. She has no memory of the first two days, including the day her heart stopped.

“When I woke up, I remember that the ICU nurses were amazing,” she said. “They came running when I pushed the call button and they were very patient with me.”

“Several days later they took me to the Cardiac Cath lab again and determined that the artery was healing on its own, so I did not need a stent.”

Beverly, who has been healthy her entire life, said this incident happened totally out of the blue. She is taking some preventive medication temporarily. “The only thing I’ll need to do is take a baby aspirin every day,” she said. Within a week after being discharged, Beverly was back to work part-time and within a month she was working full-time. 

“We went ahead with our family vacation plans and I went snow skiing in January. There are no restrictions; I can do anything I feel like doing.” Beverly looks forward to her sons’ soccer games, family trips and pool parties--all of it. She lives her life to the fullest every day.