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Tatianna Curtis

Tatianna Curtis

CHI St. Joseph Health EMS and AirMed 12 Save Teen in Cardiac Arrest

Tatianna “Tia” Curtis was telling her mother about her day at work one evening, when she suddenly closed her eyes, and her body began to fall against the wall. “She was out – just gone,” said Candi, Tia’s mother. “I didn’t know if she was having a seizure. It was completely out of the blue.”

Panicked, Candi laid her 18-year-old daughter carefully on the floor and yelled for her husband, Michael, who called 9-11 and began to perform CPR and chest compressions. Their daughter, an otherwise healthy young woman who works for the Family Dollar in Centerville, wasn’t breathing, didn’t have a pulse, and her face was turning blue.

The harrowing event, which took place around Christmas of 2019, brought CHI St. Joseph Health paramedics and, eventually, an air medical crew, to their remote home between Centerville and Crockett. The EMS team struggled to stabilize Tia’s heart rate and blood pressure. Meanwhile, the family braced themselves for bad news.

“They put her on the stretcher and took her out to the ambulance, where they sat in the driveway for over an hour,” said Candi. “It felt like forever.” First responders cleared a nearby highway for AirMed12 to land, and the family’s wait continued.

While the lack of communication from the crew troubled the Curtises at the time – they were anxious to know Tia’s status – they later came to understand that the first responders were working tirelessly on the ground and in the air to stabilize Tia. They couldn’t spare a crew member to communicate her status at the time.

“She really needed them working on her,” said Candi. “And, we’re thankful and blessed that they were able to keep her alive.”

By the time the Curtises arrived to Regional Hospital, Tia was intubated and connected to life support in the Critical Care Unit.

“She was intubated for over 24 hours,” said Candi. “My middle daughter turned 16 on December 22. She and Tia are very close, so it was a super stressful time, especially with Christmas.”

During Tia’s time in the CCU, Candi said she and Michael were touched that the paramedics who transported their daughter to the hospital stopped in several times to check in on her. This gesture showed Candi and Michael how much they cared about their daughter and how she was progressing.

The next few days were challenging for the Curtis family, as the team backed off sedation, and they watched Tia experience a bad reaction to her medication. As she began to recover, she also suffered from amnesia, which took several months to improve.

Candi said the family was relieved to be able to remain at Tia’s side by staying at the Ronald McDonald Family Room® at Regional Hospital. Located near the neonatal intensive care unit and the pediatric unit, the family rooms provide accommodation for families of pediatric patients in the hospital who live outside the area.

Because the second family room was empty over the holidays, the Curtises were able to have Tia’s siblings stay at the hospital with them.

Tia’s care team believe she suffers from a rare, genetic condition called Brugada Syndrome. Brugada causes a disruption of the heart’s normal rhythm. The disorder can lead to irregular heartbeats in the heart’s lower chambers.

Dr. Zoltan Toth inserted an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), a battery-powered device that keeps track of her heart rate and delivers an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat if needed.

Tia had some initial challenges with the device, when it shocked her just a few days after she left the hospital. The team immediately went back in surgically to adjust the device and ensure it was reading her heartbeat properly.

As Tia has continued to heal, she has worked on building up her endurance and strength. “She’s still like her normal self,” said Candi. “It’s almost like it didn’t happen.”

The Curtises feel blessed to have their daughter home and are grateful to the paramedics and Tia’s care team, which includes her cardiologist and the specialist team of Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia. “We feel lucky and blessed,” said Candi. “The team that worked on Tia were just amazing. They saved her life.”