Defibrillator Used in Attempt to Resuscitate Russert

Wednesday, 18 Jun 2008 12:01 PM

By Sylvia Booth Hubbard

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Following Tim Russert’s collapse in NBC’s Washington bureau on Friday, emergency personnel used a defibrillator again and again in a desperate attempt to revive him. A defibrillator is a device that administers an electrical shock in an attempt to restart a heart that has stopped, or to shock a heart beating abnormally back into a normal rhythm.

Russert’s heart had stopped. “He had no heart rhythm,” Dr. Michael Newman, Russert’s personal physician, told CNN’s Larry King. “NBC had a defibrillator,” Newman said. “A resuscitation was begun almost immediately.”

Just as NBC personnel were preparing to use their defibrillator, the Washington, D.C. EMS (emergency medical squad) arrived and immediately began defibrillating Russert. They managed to restart his heart, although it was beating irregularly, but even that quickly declined. Russert was shocked again – a total of three times before he reached Sibley Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The 58-year-old Russert was known to suffer from heart disease and diabetes, both risk factors for sudden cardiac arrest. And his high-stress job raised his risk even higher. But why couldn’t Russert be resuscitated with medical help readily available?

Dr. P.K. Shah, who is Larry King’s heart doctor, said there could be several reasons. “The longer the delay between the time collapse occurs and you begin defibrillation, the less the success of defibrillation. That’s number one,” he told King. “Number two, if you’re a very big-sized individual and have a large heart, the larger the heart, the harder it is to get a successful defibrillation. The bigger the heart, the more likely you are to go back into fibrillation.”

Russert didn’t die because he didn’t follow his doctor’s advice. “Tim was a great patient,” Dr. Newman said. “He complied with almost everything that was asked of him.” Russert was taking medication for his heart condition, watching his diet, and exercising. In fact, he had used a treadmill the day he died.

Dr. Russell Blaylock, noted neurosurgeon and health advocate suspects a simple nutrient could have made the difference between life and death for Russert. “The number one cause of sudden cardiac death is magnesium deficiency,” Blaylock tells Newsmax. “Cardiac patients and those with diabetes have the lowest magnesium levels of all. Since Russert had both heart disease and diabetes, he was probably deficient in magnesium. A bad diet and stress would have further depleted the magnesium in his body.

“People who are deficient in magnesium are most likely to have sudden cardiac arrest, and when they do arrest, and they are harder to resuscitate. Many simply can’t be resuscitated.”

To avoid a fate similar to Russert’s, Dr. Blaylock advises a magnesium supplement every day. “Magnesium reduces inflammation in the walls of the arteries and veins and it slightly thins blood,” he says. “If you do have a clot, magnesium prevents the heart from going into spasm. About half of the people who die from sudden cardiac arrest die from arrhythmia and magnesium prevents that. It is also essential that diabetics control their sugar levels.

“If Russert was low in magnesium, an inexpensive supplement could have saved his life.”

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