Rachel Nieting – Heart Patient Success Story

Saving graces: How an out-of-control heart was set on the straight and narrow

Rachel Nieting – Heart Patient Success Story
When most people say that church saved them, they’re talking in spiritual terms. But when Rachel Nieting says it, she’s speaking quite literally.

Last December, the 41-year-old mother of two decided to go to Sunday services at St. John’s Lutheran Church, despite feeling ill.

“I couldn’t put my finger on it, except to say that I was jelly-legged and feeling feverish and extremely tired,” Rachel recalls.

As Rachel and her husband, Craig Nieting, were about to enjoy a coffee break with fellow church members, Rachel was suddenly overcome by dizziness and collapsed.

“My husband turned to me and asked me if I wanted a doughnut,” she says. “The next thing I remember is waking up in an ambulance headed to Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.”

Lifesavers

Craig caught Rachel mid-fall and eased her to the floor. Two nearby church members, Steve Bean and Dale McCaskill, rushed to help.

Fortunately for Rachel, Steve and Dale are veteran paramedics of the Arlington and Midlothian fire departments, respectively. Even more fortunately, Rachel’s church was equipped with an automated external defibrillator (AED), a device that sends a shock to the heart to correct abnormal, life-threatening rhythms.

“Our pastor was there praying, and the paramedics gave Rachel CPR,” Craig says. “I then watched as they placed the AED on my wife’s chest to administer a shock. Steve, Dale, and the AED saved Rachel’s life.”

That’s an assessment echoed by Alan Taylor, MD, cardiologist on staff with Methodist Mansfield.

“After multiple tests, we determined that Rachel had experienced a ventricular fibrillation [v-fib] cardiac arrest,” Dr. Taylor says. “This happens when the heart goes from a normal rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute to something like a thousand beats per minute, which the body can’t sustain.

“If not for the church’s AED and the paramedics, her story would have a very different ending,” he says.

Nothing short of a miracle

A number of factors, including reactions to medications and electrical heart abnormalities, can cause v-fib. But, as in Rachel’s case, sometimes the cause is unclear.

“What we can do in a situation like this is make sure that the patient has an excellent chance of survival should it happen again, hence the decision to fit her with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD,” Dr. Taylor says.

An ICD is like a mini AED that’s placed under the skin with a wire threaded to the heart. It administers a lifesaving shock if the heartbeat accelerates to a dangerous rhythm.

Rachel, who describes the device as her “safety net,” says her care team at Methodist Mansfield helped her adjust to living with the ICD.

“Anytime I needed anything, including answers, the staff was right there,” she says. “Their care and compassion really made a difference. When it was time for my implant procedure, I felt informed and confident.

“I feel that God had the paramedics and the AED in place for me when I needed them, as well as the hospital staff,” she adds, smiling. “The nurses called me their ‘miracle on the third floor.’ I liked that.”