“My heart stopped for 38 minutes.”: A Race for Survival

Published: Sunday, June 12, 2022

Just a few miles into last year’s Gran Fondo bike Race in Helen, Georgia, 54-year-old Cory Eubanks’ life changed forever.

“I’ve always been an avid cyclist, riding thousands of miles every year,” Cory said. “But pulling my bike over is the last thing I remember from that race.”

Cory suddenly collapsed. Luckily, five different cyclists quickly recognized the situation and pulled over to help.

“We checked his neck and wrist for a pulse and didn’t feel anything,” said Genc Imeraj, who was riding nearby that day. “That’s when we quickly began administering bystander CPR while we were waiting for EMS to arrive on scene. Between the five of us, we alternated performing CPR for nearly 20 minutes.”

An Unexpected Diagnosis

When Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrived, they worked to quickly assess Cory’s condition, start key medications and perform necessary tests. While in transport, the EMS team intubated Cory, continued chest compressions with the LUCAS device and monitored his heart rhythm with an electrocardiogram. Cory had no pulse for nearly 38 minutes. During the transport, he was shocked four times with the defibrillator to try and restore a normal heart rhythm.

The LUCAS device is an automated chest compression system that aids in CPR. With the LUCAS device, fatigue, individual variations or psychological factors are removed from CPR and there is no longer a need for switching CPR providers every two minutes. LUCAS helps provide high-quality and safer chest compressions in situations such as patient movement and transportation, during prolonged CPR or in the cath lab.

“In situations like Cory’s, where a life-threatening cardiac event has taken place, our innovative and collaborative partnership with regional EMS is what makes all the difference,” said Kyle Powers, regional outreach coordinator for Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) and former paramedic. “I can’t stress how crucial it was that he received immediate bystander CPR, along with the precise care provided by White County EMS. Together, those factors are what made it possible for our team to provide seamless, life-saving care as soon as he arrived onsite.” 

Shortly after arriving at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC), Paula and her two sons, Chad and Adam, braced themselves to see Cory in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU). Cory had experienced a cardiac arrest — a result of three separate blockages in his coronary arteries.

“It was so hard to wrap my mind around the fact that this had happened to my otherwise healthy and extremely energetic husband,” Paula said.

The Road to Recovery

Before heading to the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) – also known as the Ronnie Green Heart Center – the talented team in NGMC’s state-of-the-art cardiac cath labs opened the blockages and carefully placed a stent in Cory’s coronary artery.

“I don’t think any of us will ever forget what it was like to see Cory laying in that hospital bed, sedated and intubated,” Paula said. “It was such a shock. I don’t know how I would’ve handled this experience without my siblings, children and Cory’s parents there with me. It took all of us coming together for Cory.”

As Cory continued to recover in the CVICU he received advanced treatments, including therapeutic hypothermia. He also had additional stents placed by the interventional cardiologists of Georgia Heart Institute. Slowly but surely, Cory continued to make progress, and there’s no doubt in Paula’s mind that the personalized treatment and support from every member of Cory’s care team is ultimately what bolstered them during this life-changing experience.

“We were all just amazed with the entire team and the care they all provided to ensure Cory’s miraculous recovery,” Paula said. “Within days he was talking, moving and acting more like his normal self. I can hardly find the words to thank the bystanders, the EMS and the NGMC team for everything.”

Forward-Thinking Cardiac Care

When Cory experienced a cardiac arrest caused by a blockage in his coronary arteries, the STEMI System of NGHS was initiated, which is what helped to accelerate care processes and ensure the highest level of treatment across all specialties. This collaborative system was recognized by the Georgia Department of Health and led to NGHS being the first in the state to have hospitals designated as Emergency Cardiac Care Centers.

Providing multi-disciplinary, coordinated and streamlined care that saves lives – like the experiences of the Eubanks Family – is what inspired the creation of Georgia Heart Institute, which launched in Fall of 2021.

“As the state’s most forward-thinking heart and vascular program, Georgia Heart Institute is building on the rich history of care that’s always been provided by Northeast Georgia Medical Center,” said Carol Burrell, president & ceo of NGHS. “For decades, we’ve enhanced our leading approach to heart care, expanded our services and grown our reach throughout the region.”

The new institute is taking all the best parts of NGHS’ trusted program, like the innovative and collaborative processes of the STEMI system, and re-envisioning how to implement them across all heart and vascular specialties.

“There are so many benefits Georgia Heart Institute is bringing to our patients,” Burrell said. “With our multi-disciplinary team of experts working more closely than ever before, we’re improving the heart care our community has always known and is expanding it throughout the state and beyond.”

How We’re Leading the Way in Cardiac Care

  • Reimaging the patient experience: At Georgia Heart Institute, we’re working to center every facet of care around your unique needs – and your support system. From the very beginning of your health journey, our dedicated team is focused on providing comfort, peace of mind and clarity surrounding your care.
  • Coordinating care across all cardiovascular specialties: Led by our impressive team of cardiologists, Georgia Heart Institute has developed an integrated program that encompasses the renowned heart surgeons and vascular surgeons of Northeast Georgia Physicians Group (NGPG) to deliver collaborative and coordinated care for every type of heart and vascular condition.
  • Bringing clinical breakthroughs to everyday care: Enriched by discovery and innovation, the experts of Georgia Heart Institute are continually finding new and better ways to care for patients. With our Center for Cardiovascular Biomechanics & Data Modeling, we’re able to predict and detect heart issues, like heart attacks, before they ever occur. Through participation in international research and leading clinical trials, we’re learning about the therapies and treatments of tomorrow to improve care for our patients today.

Improving Lives for Generations

For the Eubanks family, the life-saving heart care they received from the interventional cardiology team of Georgia Heart Institute, along with the Ronnie Green Heart Center, means so much more than treating a serious condition. It represents a healthier future and a renewed chance to enjoy their favorite activities – cycling, traveling in their RV and making new memories as a family.

“The care we received during each step of Cory’s journey, even before he arrived at NGMC, really was excellent,” Paula said. “The fact that Cory could receive coordinated treatment that brought in expertise from almost every specialty, including interventional, non-invasive, electrophysiology, and more, really was remarkable. At a time of so much uncertainty, the confidence in his team of providers was so needed.”

Stories like that of the Eubanks family are the reason the Georgia Heart Institute was established. The dedicated team that makes up the institute wants to continue engendering confidence during some of the hardest times of people’s lives.

“Georgia Heart Institute is not simply a new name or practice, it represents a bold new vision and mission of saving and improving lives for generations, just like the Eubanks family,” said Habib Samady, MD, interventional cardiologist and president of Georgia Heart Institute. “We’re delivering on this promise by reimagining the patient experience, coordinating care across all cardiovascular specialties and bringing clinical breakthroughs to everyday care. Ultimately, we’re helping to create healthier tomorrows for those we serve.”

When Cory and Paula think back to last April, there is still much they are processing. While life will never be the same after Cory’s cardiac arrest, there are a few lessons they are grateful to have learned.

“The kindness and selflessness people showed to Cory on that day and during his recovery won’t be forgotten,” Paula said. “The cyclists, the White County EMS and the Georgia Heart Institute team all showed us such compassion, and Cory is here all because of that.”

National Research at Georgia Heart Institute

At Georgia Heart Institute, we’re participating in several national research studies, three of which were made possible by funding through the National Institute of Health (NIH), the world’s largest and most advanced biomedical research organization in the world.

Receiving funding from the NIH speaks to the scope of the studies and the potential impact the research may have on heart and vascular care as we know it.

Our impressive team of cardiologists and clinical researchers are collaborating with experts from around the country to pursue ground-breaking studies in the areas of advanced cardiac imaging, coronary artery disease management and heart attack prevention.

To learn more about ongoing research at Georgia Heart Institute, visit georgiaheartinstitute.org/research.

Forward-Thinking Heart Care

The experts of Georgia Heart Institute provide an unmatched level of heart and vascular care that stays with you – and your family – for generations. We’re bringing together dedicated cardiologists and renowned surgeons to do whatever it takes to keep your heart at its healthiest. Learn about Georgia Heart Institute or schedule an appointment at georgiaheartinstitute.org.