Digital Exclusive: Heart attack survivors reunite with teams that saved their lives

Digital Exclusive

HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) Mark Ondishin, from Hazleton, and Jayme Burke, from Drums, both suffered massive heart attacks last year. On Monday, they got the chance to meet the teams that helped save their lives and thank them.

Ondishin had his heart attack in August and says he didn’t have much warning other than suddenly starting to feel different.

“I shouldn’t have done what I did,” he told Eyewitness News. “I got in in my vehicle and drove here. But I knew something was wrong. I knew I was having a heart attack.”

The emergency room doctors determined Ondishin needed surgery to remove blockages in his arteries that were causing his heart attack. They call in a medical evacuation team to fly him out to Cedar Crest Hospital because Lehigh Valley Hospital didn’t have the resources to do the surgery.

Burke had his heart attack a month later in September 2019. He says he knew he had to go to the hospital because his chest area didn’t feel normal.

“Heart burn, indigestion kind of feeling. Nothing really major,” he explained. “No arm pain, no back pain. Not the usual warning signs so I didn’t really think it was a heart attack.”

Burke also drove himself to the hospital. His ER doctor, Alex Youngdahl, says they has a plan in place to get Burke to Cedar Crest Hospital as well but just as the helicopter got to the hospital, things started to take a turn.

“So the Med Evac guy is standing and talking to him and he turns to him and says he is dizzy,” Youngdahl said. “And then all of a sudden he says ‘don’t let me die’ and codes.”

Coding is when a patient’s heart stops functioning properly. Youngdahl says Burke coded 28 times while at the hospital and in transport. Each time emergency personnel had to administer electrical shocks to his heart, a process known as defibrillation. Med Evac nurses say they had never had to defibrillate someone as many times as Burke.

“We could keep shocking him and put him back in a normal rhythm but we couldn’t fix the problem that he had,” said Youngdahl. “And that’s when we knew we had to get him out of here.”

It was the first time either man had a heart attack and they returned to the hospital to express their gratitude to those teams that worked to save them.

“There are no words,” said Burke. “You know, because of this team I’m standing here today. Maybe one day I’ll be able to walk my daughter down the aisle.”

“It’s good to see everybody and thank them because it’s… It was some ride, that’s all I can say,” said Ondishin.

Doctors and nurses say they’re happy to see their patients doing well at the reunion.

“This is why I got into this,” said Nurse Practictioner KC Willis who worked to save Ondishin.
You know it’s the shot in the dark that keeps you coming back the next day. These are the kind of cases that makes us do what we do and love what we do.”

Jeffery Kuklinski, and emergency physician that worked with Willis said “We ultimately like to help people. We like the medicine. So to put it all together and see a great outcome such as Mark’s, this is why we do it every day.”

“I love that he feels well and he’s kind of turned everything around and we wants to share his message and his story with the community so that he can influence them and potentially save other people’s lives,” Youngdahl said about Burke.

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