McHenry man fully recovers after heart stops beating for an hour

Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com
Michelle Blake and her husband, Matt, talk with a Northwest Herald reporter at his McHenry home Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. Matt is recovering after a cardiac arrest that happened on May 5, 2017.
Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com Michelle Blake and her husband, Matt, talk with a Northwest Herald reporter at his McHenry home Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. Matt is recovering after a cardiac arrest that happened on May 5, 2017.

McHENRY – Matt Blake of McHenry woke up in a hospital with no recollection of the four days prior.

The 48-year-old had suffered from cardiac arrest, his wife, Michelle Blake, told him.

After he was rushed to the hospital, Blake’s heart stopped beating for an hour, but with the help of a new device that kept blood pumping to his brain, he left the hospital with no brain damage and months later is fully recovered and back to work.

Matt Blake’s sisters later showed him pictures of himself dependent on the IVs and machines there to keep him alive.

More than a week after the incident, he headed home, with his pacemaker in place. Over the summer, he was able to go on a vacation with his family. By October, Matt Blake was back to work as an electrician.

“Everything went my way, that’s all I can say,” Matt Blake said at his home in December, about seven months after he went into cardiac arrest in May.

His recovery was quicker than typical, doctors told him.

“I can finally finish. I didn’t know it was going to end. I gotta see my daughters cross the stage, I gotta see them get married and I gotta get on a porch swing with [Michelle] someday sipping lemonade,” Matt Blake said. “I was that close, I was that close to checking out.”

Michelle Blake gave her husband CPR the morning of his heart attack as she waited for the ambulance to arrive. She was certified as a requirement for her daughter’s dance team, but said she was thankful for the dispatcher who walked her through it.

She had never used CPR in a critical incident.

After Matt Blake’s heart stopped beating for about an hour, he had no brain damage. The hospital used a new device called the LUCAS device, which mechanically gives CPR.

The device frees up the doctors who normally would take turns manually giving chest compressions, which lose accuracy and quality after about one or two minutes, according to the LUCAS website.

Catie Schmit, director of emergency for Centegra, co-chairs the Code Blue Committee that manages how the staff performs resuscitations. In spring 2016, this team presented the LUCAS device to the Centegra executive team and received funding to buy one device for each of Centegra’s hospitals.

“Our mission in the ED [emergency department] is to care for our community, to provide life-saving care and really in Matt’s case, the LUCAS device really helped support that mission,” Schmit said.

Matt Blake keeps all the information from his heart attack in his big green box, or “memory box.” A stack of medicine information pamphlets, photos from when he was in the hospital, cards from friends and family as well as other papers he felt were important to save fill the box.

He said that will make it easier to retell his story every time he goes to a new doctor.

The Blakes said they were not sure of a true cause of the heart attack, although doctors found that Matt Blake had an enlarged heart.

As he has had to make alterations in his life, Matt Blake took on an everything-in-moderation approach. His doctor told him he can’t argue with the results as Matt Blake progresses faster than normal while still eating pizza every once in awhile.

“He said, ‘You know I can’t argue your results. I wish you never had another drink of alcohol for the rest of your life. I wish you never ate another bacon sandwich for the rest of your life,’” Matt Blake said. “I have one from time to time. I have a cocktail. I will eat bacon BLTs – but not three a week.”

Matt Blake said he is happy with the way things worked out.

After years of his daughters asking for a dog, they rescued a dog who kept him company during the days he couldn’t work.

“He was saved, so he saved an animal,” Michelle Blake said.

At the start of his 36 rehabilitation appointments, Matt Blake said he was surprised at how much strength he has lost.

Now that he is back to working five days a week at Broadway Electric Inc., he said he feels he is only getting stronger.

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