TR Robertson — It is not every day that a story comes along that makes you stand up and cheer. As a reporter I was contacted about such a story and feel grateful I was able to meet everyone involved and share their story. Aaron Byzak, Chief External Affairs Officer – Tri-City Medical Center, commented, “I’m sure you are aware that this story is remarkable in many ways, but also emblematic of just how amazing our health system is when everything lines up.”
Seventy-six-year-old Temecula resident Steve Kissick had been staying in his RV for a few days, as he was assisting daughter Morgan and her husband Garron Alexander, in some projects at their new home in Vista at 2392 Mira Sol Drive. Steven and Garron had spent the morning cutting out carpet and dragging the carpet outside near the homes curb. At around 7:30 that morning, Steve, a retired aeronautical engineer who had also worked on Navy nuclear projects, said he began to feel dizzy and in his words, “I knew I was going down and didn’t want to fall and hit my head on the concrete.” He said he spun and fell into the mulch in the homes front yard, passing out and having, in what daughter Jennifer Wiersma said, a massive heart attack.
As fate would have it, directly across the street, working on a different project, was Vista Irrigation District employee Ryan Carlson and his partner Christian Martin. In describing what he saw, Ryan said he saw Steve appear to stagger and “go down.” Ryan walked over, going around a vehicle and found Steve lying on the ground. He immediately bent down, discovered Steve was not breathing, but he could detect a faint heartbeat. Ryan began CPR, having received CPR Training as part of the requirements for all Vista Irrigation District employees. He quickly dialed 911 and handed his phone to Christian. Ryan said the Vista Paramedic response was quick, getting to the home in 5-6 minutes time. He had continued the CPR technique until the paramedics on the scene took over, following procedures in dealing with a cardiac arrest patient.
Photos by TR Robertson
Steve was transported to Tri-City Medical Center Emergency where he was stabilized and evaluated. The doctors discovered Steve had major artery blockages. The LAD main artery was 95% blocked, the Circumflex middle artery 70% blocked and the right artery 100% blocked. Steve was lucky to still be alive. Daughter Jennifer said the artery blockages were a surprise to the family as her father was active, not over-weight and ate a healthy diet. The three sisters decided on having stents inserted rather than open heart surgery. Four stents were put in. Steve told me he was “out for 5-6 days.” Both Jennifer and Steve said, when he was able to move around, that he had returned to his “smiley, cantankerous self” and gave the nurses “what for in his quest to regain independence and privacy.” Eight days later he left the hospital with a “rebuilt engine that works like a charm” and Jennifer said the nurses rejoiced. Both Morgan and Jennifer said the doctors and nurses at Tri-City and the Vista Fire Department, from the paramedics to the emergency room personnel, to the cardiac team and nurses in her father’s wing of the hospital, were amazing. Morgan said Dr. Yung was the main cardiologist.
The family members and Steve are especially thankful for the quick actions of Ryan Carlson and the paramedic team in being there in their time of need. They refer to Ryan as the “Angel at Mira Sol.” Interestingly, Ryan’s wife, Kari, works for a company that sells Automated External Defibrillators. Aaron Byzak summed up the incident involving the life threatening incident as he outlined how things lined up: “A witnessed collapse. A bystander trained in CPR and whose wife sells Automated External Defibrillators (ASEs). Another bystander who quickly activated 911. A quick response time (6 minutes) by highly trained paramedics at a fire department (Vista Fire) who have spent decades coordinating care with a local hospital (Tri-City Medical Center) whose emergency room and cardiology program is highly regarded for heart and stroke care and excellent outcomes by the American Heart Association (AHA).” Everything falling into place for a successful and joyous outcome.
Upon hearing this story and all the people involved in making this event a success, the City of Vista, at the Vista City Council Meeting on Tuesday evening, issued a proclamation commending Ryan Carlson, read by Vista Mayor Judy Ritter, for his quick action, training and awareness, also declaring Wednesday as Ryan Carlson Day in the City of Vista. In attendance at the City Council meeting was Christina Omiatek Krasowski, Director Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Tri-City Medical Center, representing the physicians, nurses and technicians who evaluated and treated Steve when he arrived at the hospital and in the days following his sudden cardiac arrest. Christina and Roxann Rauto-Shin, Emergency Services Officer for Vista Fire and the City of Vista, both said it is important that people know that all Public Service employees for the City of Vista are trained in CPR and CPR training is important for everyone for just such situations as those involving Steve Kissick.
Also in attendance and recognizing the efforts of Ryan and all of the paramedics and Tri-City personnel was Vista Fire Chief Ned Vander Pol who introduced Captain Steve Wecklich from Fire Station 4 and the paramedic team able to attend, consisting of Engineer Darren Kaplan, Paramedic Firefighters Marouf Suleiman, Austin Delaney and Jeffrey Bruce.
In another feel good moment for this story, Steve Kissick was able to celebrate his 77th birthday last week, at Mountain Mike’s Pizza in Fallbrook, where he and his family enjoy not only pizza but cleverly designed cookies for “2nd Chance Steve”. A special guest, meeting Steve for the first time since he got out of the hospital, was Ryan. As Jennifer summed up, Steve has now made “77 laps around the sun and now has more to come.”