Retired sailor thankful to be alive

Lieutenant Commander (Ret’d) John Nosotti

Lieutenant Commander (Ret’d) John Nosotti

Deborah Morrow, Contributor ~

Last week, Lieutenant Commander (Ret’d) John Nosotti celebrates the two-year anniversary of the near-impossible odds of surviving a cardiac arrest while on a remote island.

Two years ago, Nosotti and four friends were enjoying a sail on a HMCS Discovery C22 vessel from Stanley Park to Bowen Island. Upon arrival, Nosotti stepped onto the jetty and immediately collapsed in full cardio-respiratory arrest, which means no breathing, no heartbeat, and no signs of life.

Responding to shouts for help, a sailor from a nearby yacht dove into the water, swam to the jetty, and began chest compressions. Another member of the C22 crew who had years of E.R. experience as a nurse also helped; a bystander said she was an oncologist, and another person who came to help also knew CPR.

Nosotti’s skin colour was deeply blue which meant he needed oxygen. While one person did mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the others took turns doing chest compressions.

The Bowen water taxi operator called on his radio for a paramedic helicopter, but knew the advanced life support help was 45 minutes away. Nosotti’s rescuers had to keep going until help arrived, or else lose him.

CPR is exhausting, so turns had to be taken to avoid fatigue from interfering with effective CPR. The four capable and trained first aiders spelled each other off.

Mouth-to-mouth ventilation was effective but lacked the high percentage of oxygen the blood needed to fully saturate his body.

So Nosotti was still cyanotic (blue) when the Bowen Island Volunteer Firefighters came to help. They did not have full respiratory equipment, but they did have an oxygen tank and mask. The person doing mouth-to-mouth used the mask to breathe in a high concentration of oxygen into her own lungs and then breathe what she could into Nosetti.

Shortly after, he had a pulse and some colour returned to his skin. But it didn’t last. He arrested again. Rescuers resumed CPR. Twice more, Nosotti came back to life and arrested again.

About 25 minutes into the rescue, the RCMP Detachment arrived to do whatever they could. A constable asked the crew, “Would this be of help?” and produced an AED, an automated electronic defibrillator. An AED delivers an electric shock to the heart to re-start it. It increases the chances of survival by 31 per cent.

“This is the best news ever, you bet it will help,” said one of the rescuers.

The defibrillator pads were applied to Nosotti’s chest and the AED began to do its work. CPR continued between electric shocks and after the fifth shock, Nosotti woke up long enough to say, “My chest hurts,” before lapsing into another cardiac arrest.

All together, Nosotti had 10 cardiac arrests that afternoon before the final shock flipped his heart into a rhythm that kept it beating. He began breathing on his own and an oxygen mask was placed over his mouth and nose on a high flow. The sound of the helicopter was heard overhead about 40 minutes after he first dropped; a welcome sound to the gathering crowd.

The rescuers kept expecting his heart to stop again, but instead he spoke through the oxygen mask and said, “Oh! Hi! – My chest hurts.”

“I guess it does!” said a rescuer.

Nosotti was fully alert and suffered no apparent brain damage, which seemed miraculous to the rescuers. He was transported by helicopter to Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) trauma centre.

The C22 crew was shuttled back to Stanley Park by water taxi where they were driven to the VGH ER to see their friend. The cardiologist spoke to the crew and said, “Whatever you did was right, but just to let you know, the odds were much less than one per cent survival and his brain seems alright, so even less.”

The next day Nosotti was taken to the operating room and a pacemaker and automatic defibrillator was placed inside his chest to prevent further life-threatening episodes like the one on the jetty. Although his heart continues to beat, he lives with the risk of heart failure, which means he has to restrict his fluids and salt intake.

Nosotti is now a disciple of CPR education in the Sea Cadet program in which he volunteers.

“I’m alive today because enough people around me knew CPR and because they never gave up on me.”

Nosotti now walks 10,000 steps per day for exercise, eats well, and takes heart medication; a new routine and the remedy for his survival.

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  1. RON M WEEKS says:

    My goodness a great story of a very fine friend of many years.

  2. marietta lacroix says:

    I am one of John’s sisters. I had tears reading this story knowing that I almost lost my big brother two years ago. John has always been a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. We are so fortunate that so many came to his aid when he needed it the most. Thank you to all who responded to this dire situation.

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