Astrud Messiah of Laurel was clinically dead for nearly 40 minutes, but 11 months later she was able to thank the emergency room staff at Laurel Regional Hospital and other care providers who brought her back from the brink of death.
“The team that worked on me that night did not give up on me. I stand here before you because of that,” Messiah said in a speech during the Dimensions Healthcare System’s first annual Crystal Hearts Gala, a black-tie event held at the Marriott Inn and Conference Center in Hyattsville.
The event centered around recognizing the 20 men and women who saved Messiah’s life and restored her to health.
The event also served as a fundraiser for the development of a new women’s health and wellness program at Laurel Regional Hospital, which is operated by the nonprofit Dimensions Healthcare.
Approximately 400 people attended the event, according to organizer Elena Moss.
The road back to health was a rocky one for Messiah, who works in the communications department at Laurel Regional Hospital.
Messiah suffers from sickle cell anemia, a genetic disorder causing red blood cells to appear sickle-shaped, which can lead to a number of life-threatening conditions.
John Spearman, president and chief operating officer of Laurel Regional Hospital, said Messiah called 911 because she was in great pain. When she arrived at the hospital emergency room at 6:39 a.m. Jan. 26, she went into cardiac arrest.
“I started to cry, because she was my life. We’ve been together for 20-something years,” said her husband, Carl Webb.
She was clinically dead, doctors said. Clinical death occurs when the hearts stops beating and circulating blood, and breathing stops. Sometimes the heart and breathing can be restarted through chest compressions, breathing into the person’s mouth and/or electric shocks to the heart, referred to collectively as cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The ER team, led by Dr. Sukhjit Siddhu, began performing CPR to get Messiah’s heart started, cracking her ribs in the process, Spearman said.
“It takes an impressive 38 minutes of aggressive CPR and the efforts of the ER team to bring her back to life,” Spearman said.
Even though her heart was beating once again, Messiah was not out of danger. Kidney failure, respiratory infections and a host of other complications followed.
“I thought her chances were very poor. I did not think she was going to recover,” said Dr. Jason Lee-Llacer, one of Messiah’s doctors.
One month after Messiah entered the hospital, she was able to return home. And on April 1, she returned to work in the communications department.
At Friday night’s gala, Messiah thanked the team of 20 professionals who cared for her on her journey back to wellness.