Community servant with a heart of gold - the Ed Blackburn story
“Are you ready to get on the miracle train?” said Legacy Emanuel night shift nurse as she briefed her day-shift colleague on their miracle patient. The patient under her watch was Ed Blackburn, president and CEO of Central City Concern, a man who for over 26 years fought tirelessly for people coping with homelessness, addiction and chronic unemployment.
Four months after Ed stepped down from his position with Central City Concern – preparing to retire – he started feeling dizzy with chest pains. Ed quickly excused himself from a meeting when he realized he was in trouble.
Ed was in full cardiac arrest and was quickly taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center’s ER.
The Legacy Emanuel Medical Center’s cardiac team led by cardiologist David Peizner, M.D., promptly rolled Blackburn into the catherization lab to inserted stents to open his clogged coronary arteries. “Just as we began the procedure, Ed suddenly went into cardiac arrest and we started CPR…. His heartbeat was extremely irregular,” said Dr. Peizner. They applied defibrillation over 20 times to correct his heart rhythm. Each time they tried to place the stents in Blackburn’s arteries, he went into cardiac arrest. The team continued CPR for close to two hours. Blackburn’s survival remained questionable as he somehow survived without oxygen for over four minutes. The doctors and nurses informed his wife, her husband may not make it. “I actually made the call that he passed,” said Dr. Peizner.
“This isn’t common, I’ve never seen it. A patient with a rhythm disturbance to this extent, CPR for this length of time and number of shocks recovered without brain damage?” The anesthesiologist commented that in her over twenty years of practicing medicine she had never seen anyone come back to life after 4 arrests and she was trying to come up with a scientific explanation for this case. “But science only goes so far. At some point, you must stop and let go and say we all did everything possible and it worked. Obviously, he was not finished with what he needs to do in this lifetime.”
Ed remembers efforts to save his life, “I was conscious at one point and I could see a guy doing CPR on me through a clear layer of water and I thought I’m in trouble, but I had no fear,” says Blackburn. “Then I saw the paddles and thought they’re going to shock me. I have never felt anything so painful in my life. The shock of the paddles brought me through the water and I took a deep breath and that’s all I remember.”
Ed’s doctor, Angele Theard, M.D. could not believe what she was witnessing when she saw Ed the next day. “I had to go to his room and shake his hand. I was truly awestruck; this is overwhelming.” said Dr. Theard. “There is always a case that you’ll never forget and this was the one.”
Now, recovered and happily retired, Ed is grateful for the exceptional care he received at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. “It’s been a great recovery,” Ed says. “And, it wouldn’t have happened without the extraordinary, skilled staff – it’s clear they used every tool at their disposal – without their expertise, I wouldn’t be here telling this story. I just had this overwhelming feeling I was in good hands.”
The staff at Legacy Emanuel's heart services helped Ed Blackburn, just like he dedicated his life to helping hundreds of homeless, jobless and addicted Oregonians get back on their feet. For more information on Legacy Health's comprehensive heart services, visit http://www.legacyhealth.org/.
Photos: courtesy Central City Concern and Vicki Guinn, Legacy Emanuel Medical Center Public Relations.
Story contributors: Kristin Whitney, Legacy Health public relations.
For more information: Vicki Guinn, Legacy Emanuel Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-413-2939.
Ed Blackburn visits Cardio-Vascular Intensive Care and Cath Lab staff, many who helped save his life.
Drs. Angele Theard, David Peizner, and Jason R. Leong, D.O. all part of physicians who cared for Ed Blackburn.
Ed Blackburn relaxing on bench at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in 2017, where he spent several weeks recuperating.
Legacy Health President and CEO George Brown, MD, and Ed Blackburn. Legacy Health was one of a few health care organizations that contributed funds to build low-income housing.