On the evening of March 17, 2019, Larry Fryer, 78, was doing what property owners do — making routine checks of his rental properties to address miscellaneous maintenance issues.
Like most people, Fryer experienced occasional fatigue and after a long day, his weariness was not surprising. Although his medical history included high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and an incidence of cancer, he had only recently undergone a comprehensive physical exam with no serious concerns noted.
As he drove, his breathing suddenly became so labored, he knew he was in trouble.
“My friend drove me to the emergency department at OU Medical Center Edmond,” he said.
He arrived at the hospital with shortness of breath and complaining of chest tightness. In addition to these symptoms, he had hypoxia, a dangerous condition that deprives the body of oxygen and may compromise vital organs. He was admitted for observation and testing, as the source of symptoms causing his discomfort was not conclusive at the time.
Fryer remembers waking in terror the next morning.
“I couldn’t breathe at all. A nurse rushed in as I tried to call my wife, Kay, but I couldn’t get enough air behind the words.”
Colby Pyle, R.N., OU Medical Center Edmond Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse, took the phone and spoke with Mrs. Fryer. Fluid build-up had impaired Fryer’s breathing and by mid-morning, he had been moved to the ICU. He received medications that effectively relieved the excessive fluid retention.
It was March 20, the Fryers’ 50th wedding anniversary. Although still a patient in ICU, Fryer was confident his condition was well on the way to a successful resolution.
“By early evening, I really felt pretty good. My son was visiting from Tulsa, and I told him he should go home. Everything was fine, and my friend was willing to stay with me a while longer.”
The situation took a dramatic turn later in the evening. Fryer has some memory of falling asleep, but other recollections are vague. When he awoke, he learned he had survived a heart attack. He also believes he experienced death in those moments before midnight, a belief confirmed by his healthcare team.
Mandy Nelson, DNP, APRN-CNS, ACNS-BC, CCRN, director of the OU Medical Center Edmond ICU, explained that Fryer experienced Torsades de pointes, an abnormal heart rhythm that can lead to sudden cardiac death.
“On March 20, around 11:30 p.m., Mr. Fryer’s heart rhythm became non-life sustaining,” she said. “Nursing staff intervened, performing chest compressions for about a minute. A defibrillator was used to administer a series of shocks. Essentially, he was brought back to life — normal heart rhythm resumed with a perceptible pulse. We call it ROSC — return of spontaneous circulation.”
Fryer was discharged two days later with no lasting adverse effects noted.
Fryer remembers little of the events of that evening beyond what staff and family members have told him, but he’s sure of this: “I’m alive today because those doctors and nurses knew exactly what to do and when to do it.”
His wife expressed amazement and gratitude.
“We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary — a little late, maybe — but I know if things had been different, instead of enjoying dinner and fond memories, I might have been making funeral arrangements.”
A cornerstone of the Edmond community for more than 70 years, OU Medical Center Edmond is a full-service community hospital offering a direct connection to the knowledge and resources of the state’s only comprehensive academic hospital.