Heroes among us

January 02, 2020
Dr. Brandt Delhamer, CEO Pam Tahan, Gary Swedenborg, and Raymond Mitchell Jr.

When Raymond Mitchell Jr. went out for dinner at Flanigan’s® one night, he had no idea that the man seated just steps away would help save his life.

“I was here, and then I was gone,” Mitchell says, explaining that he had no warning of the heart condition brewing inside of him. He suffered from cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops working. Without swift intervention, this condition is often fatal.*

Retired firefighter Gary Swedenborg happened to be dining at a nearby table when Mitchell lost consciousness and instinctively jumped into action. “I took one look at him and I pulled him down to the ground and started CPR,” he says.

Learn more about emergency care at Wellington Regional →

Some relief came as the 76-year-old’s pulse and color returned, but Swedenborg’s 36 years of experience told him he needed to continue with CPR until paramedics from Palm Beach County Fire Rescue arrived with a defibrillator to shock Mitchell's heart and help restore its rhythm.

Cardiologist Anderson Penuela, MD, who treated Mitchell at Wellington Regional, says that the swift emergency response saved his life. “It was excellent, and it was right on time,” Dr. Penuela says. “Often with cardiac arrest, patients can develop some kind of brain injury because of lack of oxygen,” he explains. Thankfully, that was not the case this time.

Another important factor was treatment in the emergency room to control Mitchell’s heart arrhythmia and thin his blood. “That gave us time to take care of him and find out why he had the problem,” Dr. Penuela says. Testing showed that he had three blockages in his coronary arteries, and he subsequently had bypass surgery. Today he is recovered and doing great.

Mitchell and his emergency crew had a chance to reunite at Wellington Regional’s “Call of the Quarter” ceremony held to honor the work of first responders. Having this opportunity to meet with a patient after recovery is rare and “kind of puts the human element into it,” says EMS Captain Danielle Satchell, EMT. “This is exactly why we do what we do.”

Mitchell says it’s hard to express the full gratitude he feels. “How do you really thank people who gave you back your life?” he says.

Wellington Regional is honored to work closely with first responders to provide emergency care in the community.

*American Heart Association®