Plainfield man beats death, has ‘miraculous’ recovery
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org October 11, 2012 7:38PM
Plainfield resident Judy Kuriger (second from left) stands with nurses Evelia Lopez (far left), Lana Peters, (third from left) and Angela McGee (center) as her husband Roy (far right) meets with nurse Christine Machalek (second from right) at Provena St. Joseph Medical Center Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, at 333 Madison St. in Joliet. The nurses assisted in reviving Roy when he went 25 minutes with no palpable pulse. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 13, 2012 6:07AM
JOLIET — All the science in the world doesn’t fully explain how Roy Kuriger of Plainfield was able to make a solid recovery after 25 minutes without a discernible pulse.
“In my humble opinion, it seems like this is kind of a divine intervention kind of thing,” said Dr. Daniele DeGirolami, a cardiologist at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center who has treated Kuriger. “I find this to be really extraordinary. I find the work of God at play here.”
Kuriger, 63, was admitted to Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center on Sept. 30 after he passed out at his Plainfield home and his doctor suspected a heart problem.
Stricken Oct. 3
Pulmonary Critical Care Physician John Walsh was in the hallway outside Kuriger’s room the morning Kuriger crashed. It was Oct. 3, and Walsh had just finished going over a scan of Kuriger’s lung with a nurse who was treating him when it happened.
Kuriger’s wife, Judy Kuriger, found her husband sprawled across his hospital bed, not breathing. She screamed for help.
“He was unresponsive, didn’t have a pulse,” Walsh said. “I was able to intubate him in moments. We were resuscitating for what was probably 25 minutes.
“The electricity of his heart continued, but we couldn’t feel a pulse,” Walsh said. “We thought maybe he had a heart attack, but it didn’t fit perfectly.”
A crowd of hospital staff immediately formed around Kuriger’s bed to help resuscitate him. Once he was breathing again and had a heartbeat, an angiogram showed his heart arteries were open, but that the right side of his heart was straining.
A CAT scan showed clots in his lungs. Kuriger started clot medication and was off a ventilator the next day.
Through CPR and other treatment, hospital staff members were able to maintain the blood flow to Kuriger’s brain, Walsh said, which is likely why he was able to wake up after 25 minutes without a pulse and have no brain damage.
“It’s nice to have something like this ... to remind you that’s why we do it,” Walsh said. “It’s nice to see good things come to good people like this. It’s heartwarming.”
No memory of event
Kuriger said he doesn’t remember any of it.
One minute he was standing up, using the restroom. The next thing he knew, he was lying in a hospital bed.
There was no white light or peaceful feeling, either, he said.
It was one of the first things his sister, Linda Moffett, asked him when he woke.
“‘Did you see the light?’ I said, ‘I didn’t see nothing,’” Kuriger said.
Kuriger had a pulmonary embolism, caused by blood clots that had gotten stuck in his lung and were blocking the flow of blood from the right side of his heart.
He suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest with pulseless electrical activity (PEA), DeGirolami said.
“You don’t have blood flow, but you have an electrical impulse,” he said. “What’s miraculous about him is that typically people who develop PEA, they do not survive.”
Stared down death
But Kuriger looked particularly good on Oct. 5 for a man who stared death in the face, still hospitalized but surrounded by family and the nurses who worked on him that day. He was cleared to go home and left the hospital Thursday.
Kuriger not only survived the near-death encounter, but also had a stroke in November. He’s currently fighting tongue cancer as well.
Being in St. Joe’s was somewhat nostalgic for Kuriger, who met his wife there 42 years ago.
At the time he was visiting his hospitalized mother, who had a heart attack. Judy was a certified nurse’s assistant who was helping to take care of her.
“She walked in the room, and that quick, she stole my heart,” Roy said, adding that after Judy left the room he told his mother he would marry her.
They married in 1972 and had two sons. Judy still works at the hospital.
While she watched the doctors and nurses work on her husband — and watched the minutes pass while he still was not breathing — Judy said she never gave up hope he would come through.
“My mind was just to save him. I just wanted him to live,” she said.
“And he did,” said Lana Peters, a nurse who worked on Kuriger that day, with fellow nurses Angela McGee, Evelia Lopez and Christine Machalek.
Kuriger said he was told after his stroke in November that he should have been paralyzed or dead.
“I don’t know the reason why” (I’m still alive), Kuriger said, holding his wife’s hand and kissing it. “She’s my angel.”
Moffett recently set up a benefit fund to collect donations to help with Kuriger’s mounting medical bills at First Midwest Bank in Joliet.