When Brandon Hopper decided to explore the wilderness in Greenwater, Wash., on May 16, 2011, he anticipated finding a herd of elk — he didn’t expect his heart to stop. Born with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a congenital defect that causes the heart muscle to grow excessively thick, the then 19-year-old Hopper collapsed and stopped breathing. His two companions were quick on their feet. One immediately began CPR; the other ran to get help — they were out of cell phone range.
According to Brenda Nelson, R.N., CEN, chief flight nurse for Airlift Northwest, this early intervention made all the difference. “Brandon received CPR right from the start, so enough oxygen was able to circulate to his heart and brain,” she says. “This put us in a good position to perform advanced lifesaving procedures.”
Before Airlift Northwest could transport Hopper to a hospital, however, they needed to re-start his heart. This turned out to be a record-setting event, one described as a “conga line” of first responders and Airlift Northwest crew members who took turns giving Hopper CPR for 86 minutes. Performing chest compressions for that length of time is an arduous endeavor, and there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome. Still, providers on the scene persisted. “Hearts like Brandon’s are resilient,” says Nelson. “No one wants to give up on someone so young. Most likely they saw some rhythms, a glimmer of hope that kept them going.”
At Harborview Medical Center, Hopper was implanted with a defibrillator to correct abnormal heart rhythms. He has made a full recovery, and along the way, he and those who rescued him reached a benchmark: with 86 minutes of CPR, his is the second longest successful resuscitation on record.
Not long ago, Hopper had the opportunity to meet Ann Kellogg, R.N., one of the Airlift Northwest critical-care nurses who helped keep him alive. “I owe her my life. I don’t know what to say other than thank you,” Hopper says.