David Henley is a dedicated husband, father and software engineer. He and his wife, Karen, have been married for more than 29 years and have two children together, along with their sweet dog, Forest. They’ve always strived to live a healthy lifestyle and stay active. In fact, David ran regularly with his close group of friends. One of their annual traditions was the Gate River Run, a 15K race that begins in downtown Jacksonville.
In March 2022, David and his friends arrived early to the Gate River Run to warm up. It was a beautiful morning with great weather, and David recalls everything being typical. He had a great run and crossed the finish line with ease. However, just a few seconds after crossing the finish line, David collapsed.
“I remember crossing the finish line, looking at my watch and then I don’t remember much until that evening,” David said.
It takes a team
Fortunately for David, he collapsed directly in front of the UF Health Jacksonville TraumaOne tent. Each year, UF Health Jacksonville is the medical sponsor for the Gate River Run, and the tent is manned with experienced, volunteer medical providers ready to handle any emergency.
“As he crossed the finish line, David was pale, and he fell and hit his head,” said Jennifer Silvey-Cason, emergency preparedness manager at UF Health Jacksonville, who was stationed near the finish line. “At that point, we knew this was a medical emergency.”
Silvey-Cason radioed for immediate team support. Charge Nurse Jennifer Harrell, BSN, RN, CCRN, and TraumaOne Flight Director Tony Hayes, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, NRP, FP-C, answered the call and ran to his aid. They moved David to the TraumaOne tent just a few steps away, where more providers were waiting to receive him.
Emergency physicians Christine Gage, DO, and Andrew Schmidt, DO, were both stationed in the tent, where they quickly examined David and confirmed he had no pulse and was in cardiac arrest.
“My goal in that moment was to do everything we could to try and get that pulse back,” Gage said.
The team began CPR in a well-practiced rhythm, with everyone focused on their role. While Gage was stationed at the foot of the bed directing the team, Schmidt was at the head of the bed, ensuring that David’s airway was stable and protected. Some members of the team focused solely on compressions, while others gained IV access for medications. One step back from the action was trauma surgeon Jeanette Zhang, MD, who served as code team leader. Zhang was responsible for overseeing the entire process and ensuring that each team member did their part. Altogether, there were about eight to 10 people working to save David’s life.
After delivering a round of CPR, the team saw a life-threatening heart rhythm, known as ventricular fibrillation, on the monitor. They delivered an electrical shock, which converted David’s heart activity into a normal rhythm. Although still unconscious and not aware at this time, David made slight movements and his eyes fluttered — a good sign that his heart was sending blood to his brain again. It was at this point that the team felt hopeful for a positive outcome.
David was then further stabilized and transferred to the TraumaOne Critical Care Transport Ambulance that would take him to UF Health Jacksonville, where emergency and trauma teams would continue his care.
A miraculous recovery
After receiving a concerning text from David’s friend, Karen used the “Find My” app on her phone to track David’s Apple watch and saw that he was at the UF Health Jacksonville emergency room. She immediately caught a ride there with a friend and was able to confirm that David had been admitted.
At UF Health Jacksonville, David was evaluated and had an electrocardiogram, or EKG, to check for possible heart conditions. He was then taken to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, where the Interventional Cardiology team examined the vessels in his heart, which they found to be normal with no visible blockages or occlusions.
Next David was admitted to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, where monitoring continued for a few days. David regained consciousness on the evening of his accident, and Karen stayed by his side during the days that followed.
As he showed progress, David was weaned off the ventilator and his breathing tube was removed. After five days at UF Health Jacksonville, David’s heart was deemed normal and he was set to make a full recovery.
A new outlook on life
David’s recovery was emotional for his family and everyone involved in his care. It’s rare to see someone come back from David’s situation, much less walk out of the hospital with no major side effects.
During David’s stay at the hospital, members of the team who saved his life stopped by to see him and tell him what happened in the tent. Specifically, Schmidt, Hayes, Harrell and Silvey-Cason regularly checked on David and Karen.
Today, David has a new appreciation for life. He is more conscious of his diet and strives to make healthier choices. While he isn’t running 15K races anymore, he still goes on shorter runs and stays active with modified exercise routines. David also had a defibrillator implanted for peace of mind, which monitors his heartbeat and can deliver a strong electrical shock to restore a regular heart rhythm if needed.
David and Karen are forever grateful to UF Health Jacksonville TraumaOne for saving David’s life and for the care they received while at the hospital.
“I can’t even put into words how thankful I am,” Karen said.
Each year, the TraumaOne tent welcomes volunteers at the Gate River Run. In 2023, David and Karen will join as volunteers to show their gratitude and help make a difference at the same place where David’s life was saved only a year prior.
To learn more about UF Health Jacksonville TraumaOne, visit TraumaOne.UFHealthJax.org