As the meeting time draws near, a small group gathers around a conference table in the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center. The attendees, who are of a variety of ages and backgrounds, are survivors of cardiac arrest—an experience that few of them remember but one which has greatly impacted all of their lives.
Advanced Resuscitation Cooling Therapeutics and Intensive Care Program Coordinator Michelle Gossip, BSN, RN, started the support group in late 2013 because she began to see a pattern in her cardiac patients who were brought back from death through resuscitation and hypothermia. “It grew from a constant awareness, as I would see these patients prior to discharge, that there were so many long-term needs that weren’t being met by a clinical visit.”
A grant from the MCV Hospitals Auxiliary helped her start the monthly program, which provides a supportive environment in which individuals can share their challenges and successes. The group is safe, confidential, and “allows sharing in an environment of like-minded and like-experienced individuals,” she says.
While initially many are simply grateful to be alive, “oftentimes, patients need to go home and reintegrate in their daily routine before they recognize some of the long-term issues of anxiety, depression and persistent short-term memory loss. “It’s a unique patient population with unique needs.”
Family members are also welcome to attend the sessions. Many of them are working through their own emotional turmoil related to the cardiac arrest, having often provided life-saving CPR or witnessed the death and revival of their loved one. “When survivors and family members both participate in the group, it allows for a variety of perspectives to be shared that can open up the opportunity for emotional healing,” she says.
The support group is part of a comprehensive ARCTIC post-cardiac arrest program at VCU Medical Center.
“Michelle helps them understand where they are and helps them through it,” says Pauley Heart Center Nursing Director Kathryn Perkinson, MSN, RN, CEN. “Through our ARCTIC program, we see people across the continuum and we support them.”