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Off-Duty Nurse, First Responders and 'Miracle' Machine Save Man's Life

by on May 15, 2014 6:20 AM

It doesn't always end well.

A person goes into cardiac arrest and suddenly a life is hanging in the balance.

In these situations the victim often doesn't survive to talk about it. But on April 22 circumstances were aligned perfectly and now Bryant Musser is home and recovering.

Musser, 66, of Centre Hall, suffers from diabetes and recently had his toe amputated. He was at the Wound Clinic in State College for treatment when he started to feel ill. The doctor sent him to Mount Nittany Medical Center for a chest X-ray. Doctors didn't see anything wrong, so Musser started to head home.

But he didn't get far.

Musser crashed his vehicle at East Park Avenue and Hospital Drive – not far from Mount Nittany Medical Center. The vehicle went over an embankment sliding about 40-feet before coming to a stop, according to State College police.

An off-duty nurse, Shirley Karduck, saw the accident and stopped to help. She performed CPR until medics from Mount Nittany Medical Center and Penn State arrived. A State College police officer also responded and applied a defibrillator.

With Musser on an incline it made it difficult for Karduck to get her footing, creating a challenge. Also, ordinarily responders would have to stop performing CPR while lifting and moving Musser. However, a new piece of equipment with the paramedic unit at Mount Nittany – the Lucas 2 – helped crews continue their life-saving efforts.

The Lucas is a tool that wraps around a patient's body and performs measured CPR compressions automatically. When first responders become exhausted – or in order to continue CPR while moving the victim – the Lucas can be utilized.

Shawn Luse, Ed Gailey and Ken Kephart, paramedics at the Mount Nittany, along with Lou Brungard -- the hospital's vice president of facilities and planning operations who also happens to be a local EMT -- came equipped with the Lucas.

"When performing CPR, people get tired and they change out and take turns because they become exhausted or tired and when CPR is stopped it takes one to two minutes to build a person's circulation again," Luse says. "With the Lucas, that doesn't happen. It's revolutionized what we do."

After about five to seven minutes with the Lucas, Musser saw a return of spontaneous circulation, meaning his heart started beating on its own and crews could turn off the Lucas.

"It makes all of the bad days come together and go off to the side," says Luse. "It makes the job worthwhile. The reward is being able to talk to them after the fact."

Musser underwent double-bypass surgery and had an internal defibrillator implanted. He stayed in the hospital for three weeks with half the time at Mount Nittany and half at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. He was released Monday – two days after he and his wife, Jody Musser, celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary.

"The stars certainly aligned for him to be in the right place with the right people who had the right knowledge. ... It wasn't his time," says Jody Musser.

Bryant Musser doesn't remember the accident, but afterward his main concern was whether he hit anyone else in the accident. He was worried that someone else might have been hurt. Jody Musser says her husband asked about it several times. She says he is extremely grateful for all who helped save his life.

"He just couldn't believe it -- that all of this transpired to help him. All of these forces gathered together for him," she says.

From Karduck performing CPR for roughly six minutes to the advanced technology of the Lucas, Jody Musser says what happened is nearly unexplainable.

"It was just a matter of the time and the people and it's just a miracle," she says.

Rich Kelley, director of emergency services at Mount Nittany Medical Center, says the success of the Lucas depends on many factors including the underlying causes of the patient's situation.

Additionally, success depends on how early CPR is started by a bystander, how quickly first responders arrive to utilize a defibrillator and the Lucas, as well as the proximity to the hospital.

"(Musser) had everything in his favor, so that certainly made a huge difference in the outcome," says Kelley.

Mount Nittany Medical Center has a Lucas 2 at it's main hospital and a second unit at its Bellefonte facility. The cost was $13,000 each, with employee donations covering most of the expense. Crews use the equipment roughly one to two times a week.

"It was really great to see our employees recognize the importance of the equipment," says Mount Nittany Health Spokesperson Erin Welsh.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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