Friday, February 17, 2012

Emergency System Gives Arundel Man Second Chance at Life


Nelson Ballou, 57, of Arundel, died for six minutes. The fact that he is alive today is due to a series of fortunate circumstances, correct choices and the emergency pre-plan in place between the local fire rescue units, Southern Maine Medical Center and Maine Medical Center.

Late in the afternoon on Friday, September 23, 2011, Ballou, a math teacher at the Middle School of the Kennebunks, was preparing for the annual 8th grade bike trip by jogging on his home treadmill. After some running and weight lifting, he felt a burning in the upper center of his chest. It hurt to breathe. After an attempt to “walk it off” by strolling around the back yard, he told his wife Donna that he was going to lay down for a few moments. Fortunately, after she heard him moaning, she decided to call 911.

Five minutes later, Justin Cooper and his crew from the Arundel Fire Rescue arrived to find Ballou in significant pain and ashen gray.

“I knew the second I saw him that his condition was extremely critical,” recalls Cooper, a paramedic with extensive rescue experience. “I was concerned that we wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time.”

Moments later, Ballou went into cardiac arrest. The rescue team immediately began CPR and prepared to use the defibrillator to jump start Ballou’s heart. The paramedics worked with calm assurance to revive Ballou. He awoke to find Jason Nedeau, an EMT and one of his students from 20 years before, applying chest compressions. In his foggy state of mind, he was actually struggling against Nedeau’s attempts to save his life.

“I couldn’t figure out why anyone was pushing so hard on my chest,” recalls Ballou. “My ribs were hurting. I wasn’t sure what was going on. And then I open my eyes to see one of my former students over me pushing on my chest. I didn’t know what was happening.”

In fact, Ballou’s heart stopped for almost six minutes. In this vital stretch of time, Cooper, Nedeau and the other Fire Rescue team members kept Ballou’s blood pumping to critical organs of his body. Once he revived, they performed an electrocardiogram, which identified an acute blockage of one of the blood vessels in his heart as the reason for his heart stopping. While the ambulance raced to SMMC, these men saved Ballou’s life.

After being notified of his condition, SMMC’s Emergency Department swung into action preparing to stabilize Ballou immediately upon arrival and activating their colleagues at MMC’s Maine Heart Center in preparation for emergency heart surgery. Dr. Larry Haith and SMMC’s ED team quickly stabilized Ballou and prepared him for the surgery at MMC. They would later learn that Ballou had a 100 percent blockage of his Left Anterior Descending Artery, which is the main blood supply to the portion of the heart that pumps blood to the rest of the body. This condition, nicknamed “the widow maker,” is the cause of the classic heart attack for men between the ages of 55 and 65. It has only a five percent survival rate. Ballou was fortunate.

“Mr. Ballou’s survival is the result of a well-planned system of emergency care that begins with his wife choosing to call 911,” notes Michael Schmitz, DO, an emergency department physician and EMS coordinator at SMMC. “The quick response of the paramedics with the appropriate equipment, their correct assessment of the situation, prompt defibrillation, fast stabilization at SMMC, and the emergency surgery to open his blocked artery at Maine Medical are all part of a comprehensive system of emergency care that is focused on accurate assessment and immediate treatment of this type of illness. The results show clearly in a case like Ballou’s. The prompt response and intervention by the Arundel Fire Rescue team clearly saved his life and activated the system of care that was able to fix the problem so quickly.”

According to Cooper, Ballou was also the recipient of another bit of good fortune: the town of Arundel’s decision to have two Fire Rescue personnel on hand 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “The response time prior to our current program ranged from ten to twenty minutes,” notes Cooper. “Now, our average response time is four to five minutes. Those few minutes are critical to saving lives.”

Within a month after heart surgery, Ballou entered the cardiac rehabilitation program at SMMC. He was a bit intimidated to begin exercising again. “I was apprehensive to start any exercise because of the incident,” recalls Ballou. “But the cardiac rehab team at SMMC were great. They were very thoughtful and reassuring.”

The cardiac rehabilitation program at SMMC provides medically supervised and monitored exercise, education, and support in the Joseph A. and Anna M. Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Gym that is designed to guide patients through the recovery process following a heart attack or other cardiac problem. Each patient’s program is custom designed based on specific health situations and goals. A team of cardiologists, exercise physiologists and nurses provides an environment in which participants confidently increase their activity. In addition to exercise, patients learn about a heart-healthy lifestyle and receive support to change unhealthy habits. A complete educational program accompanies the monitored exercise with topics including heart disease, physical activity, blood pressure, cholesterol, medications and nutrition. To complete the program, participants are offered a one-on-one learning experience to ensure healthy changes continue long after the program ends.

“Each time I visited, I felt more secure,” adds Ballou. “By the fourth week, I was back to enjoying exercise full time. I have no fear of working out now.”

Ballou has since returned to teaching school, a position he notes that he is as passionate about now as when he started over 35 years ago. But today one of his best lessons is reserved for men his age. “Don’t wait until any chest pain gets severe,” he warns. “Don’t take the chance. Call 911. I owe my life to the Arundel Fire Rescue team and the doctors at SMMC and MMC, but I wouldn’t be here if my wife Donna hadn’t called 911. I’m forever grateful.”

PHOTO CAPTION: (from left) Donna and Nelson Ballou with Jason Nedeau (at top) and Justin Cooper of the Arundel Fire Rescue team. Jason, a student of Nelson’s 20 years ago, helped administer life-saving CPR. (Courtesy Photo)

Committee Approves Bill to Establish Jobs Training Program at YCCC


The Education and Cultural Affairs Committee unanimously approved legislation submitted by Rep. Devin Beliveau (D-Kittery), to establish a jointly operated Precision Tool program between York County Community College (YCCC) and Southern Maine Community College (SMCC).

“There will be a shortage of skilled workers in York County over the next few years,” said Beliveau. “This program would produce Precision Machinists who have the technical skills that are needed for these well-paying jobs.”

The three largest employers in York County are Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Pratt & Whitney and General Dynamics. All three heavily depend on the technical skills of Precision Machinists and no postsecondary program currently exists in York County for this type of training.

This program would provide residents of York County with the opportunity to earn an associate degree in their backyard and be qualified for high skill high wage jobs. Pratt & Whitney contributed an initial $100,000 to The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges designated for this program but further funding is needed in order to permanently establish the program.

“YCCC is pleased to partner with SMCC to bring this initial program to York County. SMCC has a long established and well respected program which will be very helpful as we establish a new program in our region” said Charles Lyons, President of YCCC.

“This program is essential in order to prevent a skilled labor shortage that could result in high paying jobs moving out Maine and overseas,” said Beliveau.

Oscar Season 2012 Has Arrived!

By Chip Schrader

Staff Columnist

As spring approaches, film buffs and movie fans alike have an annual event to look forward to that rivals the Christmas season DVD releases in November. The Oscars are quickly arriving, and it’ll delight many to hear names like Scorsese and Clooney mentioned. Conversely, though, is the hoopla surrounding two relatively new and unknown movies. One of which is a modern, nearly 100 percent-silent film from Harvey and Bob Weinstein. The second film is the English-American adaptation of one of the most successful novels of the last two years.

Martin (Marty) Scorsese was featured on CBS Sunday Morning two weeks ago implying that fatherhood has perhaps has mellowed him over the last few years. His wife suggested that Marty make a film that their daughter could watch, which ultimately resulted in Scorsese’s first real foray into three-dimensional cinema—Hugo, a family-friendly film based upon the children’s book, “The Adventures of Hugo Cabaret.”

The book itself boasts amazing visual elements that undoubtedly helped to inspire and challenge Scorsese to transition the story into film. The test—come Oscar-time—will be whether the Academy prefers the angry Scorsese of The Departed or the kid-friendly Scorsese that’s emerged this past year. Scorsese has competition for the Director category, though, as he is just one director amongst a staggering eleven nominations for Best Direction.

The Oscars began in 1929, just one year after the true end of the silent film era in 1928. French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist is the first full-length feature silent film to enter the Oscar race in several decades. After winning big at the Screen Actors Guild Award, Hazanavicius could very well the one to beat come Sunday, February 26—though, it should be said that Scorsese received the award at this year’s Golden Globes. Regardless, though, of past awards this season, it seems pretty divisive between the two-time Oscar-winning director the relatively unseasoned Hazanavicius.

The Artist is an evocation of an era that audiences can probably identify as the Roaring Twenties—complete with a stock market crash. Taking place in the final years of the silent film industry, Artist focuses upon silent-film star George Valentin—who fears that he will vanish from the public eye as the motion picture industry abandons silent film in favor of sound. Conversely, the film also focuses upon an up-and-rising starlet named Peppy Miller. The dichotomy between the two provides a solid plot point through the duration of the film. Inspired by silent film legend Rudolph Valentino, known simply as “Valentino,” Hazanavicius’ film has arrived at quite the appropriate time—considering the influx of horribly produced 3D-films like Clash of The Titans.

The Help, adapted from Katherine Stockett’s tremendously successful novel of the same name, has come out of almost nowhere as one of the Oscar favorites. Detailing the story of southern housemaids during the 1950s and 60s, The Help highlights the plight of women who helped to raise generations of southern children. After the cast’s recent numerous honors at the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globes, the film is being touted as the one to beat—especially in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories. The Help stands to win a fairly large percentage of their nominations, with Viola Davis for Best Actress, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain both for Best Supporting Actress, and the film itself up for Best Picture.

With film nominations running the gamut of family-friendly 3D fare to one writer’s experience in 1920s Paris—but, only at midnight—it really is anyone’s guess on which way the Academy will lean. With a wide variety of actors and directors nominated for their work, it’s impossible to say who deserves the award more than their peers—though with seasoned actors and directors facing off with young ingĂ©nues, it’s sure to be an exciting race.

The 84th annual Academy Awards air Sunday, February 26, at seven o’clock on ABC.