St. Charles Herald-Guide

Father who suffered massive heart attack saved by mother and son

By Kyle Barnett - June 22, 2012

Louise Deist did not know the severity of her 56-year-old husband Henry’s condition when he called her and said he was having trouble breathing.

"At that moment, I really didn’t know," Louise said. "I thought maybe he was doing something outside and got overexerted. That’s what I figured he was doing – got outside and overexerted."

Louise happened to be on duty at the time as an ambulance driver and paramedic for St. Charles Parish Hospital and her ambulance was the only unit available.

Louise said she began to worry when her husband did not answer his phone when they were en route to the family’s home in Des Allemands.

"I got a little bit more excited," Louise said. "Not exactly excited, but more concerned."

Louise called the first responders from the Paradis Volunteer Fire Department and within a few minutes met them at the home.

"Whenever we have a call that seems very critical we always try to get the fire department out," Louise said. "The volunteer firefighters were right there."

Included in the first responder team was Louise and Henry’s 25-year-old son Joseph, a volunteer firefighter, who also answered the call.

In addition to Joseph, Henry introduced his other two sons, 28-year-old Christopher and 23-year-old Phillip, to public service through volunteer firefighting. Henry served at the Paradis Volunteer Fire Department for 18 years before becoming involved in the Des Allemands and Bayou Gauche Volunteer Fire Department’s about a year ago.

Upon arriving at the Deist residence, Louise and Joseph found Henry unconscious.

"He was basically unresponsive, but breathing," Louise said.

Joseph got into the back of the ambulance with his father as Louise drove them to the hospital. Henry’s heart had stopped beating and he quit breathing.

He had suffered a massive heart attack and a stroke.

"At first I didn’t know what was going on and then I looked into the mirror and I saw the CPR going on," Louise said. "They went through CPR and some of the heart medication that they use for codes and got him back"

Despite a rapid emergency response time that Louise estimates took 15 minutes from the time Henry called until he was at the hospital, he was struggling to stay alive.

"If he had waited much longer to call it probably would have been a different result," Louise said.

Louise said Henry was stabilized against the odds, but remained in a coma.

"They (the doctors) weren’t saying a whole lot at the time," Louise said. "The longer he stayed out the worse things would look, they said. They tried twice to bring him out of sedation and turn the vents off and twice they were unsuccessful."

Louise said Henry was in a coma for two weeks and that his doctors were uncertain what would happen to him, but that the outlook was not very good.

"His prognosis wasn’t good," Louise said. "And then the next day he was awake."

Henry had again defied expectations by coming out of the coma.

"He kind of opened his eyes up on his own one day," Louise said. "When they took him off the vent it was really hard to talk after having a tube down your throat for fourteen days and they had to put a pump on him to help pump his heart."

Louise said Henry is still bed bound and doctors are working to determine his condition. Henry also suffered some memory loss due to the incident.

"I think he’s just starting to piece things together as far as what happened," Louise said. "I don’t think he is fully aware of how bad it has been."

Louise said Henry will likely be disabled for the rest of his life and will not be able to return to work.

"It’s going to be a long way towards recovery. We have healthcare insurance, but he has no disability insurance from work," Louise said. "They are telling me between I guess the time he gets the artificial device, whatever they decide to do, and the rehab he’ll probably be in and out of the hospital for six to eight months."

The Deist family is preparing for a fundraiser in conjunction with the Des Allemands Volunteer Fire Department, which will be held on July 22. In the meantime those who would like to donate to the family can do so by visiting any Capital One branch and asking for the Benefit for Henry Deist.

Henry and Louise Deist
Henry and Louise Deist