Red Cross Recognizes OHSU 'Heroes'

03/11/08  Portland, Ore.

Three Physicians Honored, Part of a Team of Dozens Who Saved the Life of Kathy Ryan

Three Oregon Health & Science University physicians have been honored for the part they played in saving Kathy Ryan, the 66-year-old Portland woman who collapsed last August near Mist, Ore., during the Hood-to-Coast Relay. She was revived by two Oregon state troopers, who also were in the relay; rushed to nearby St. John Medical Center in Longview, Wash., where she was stabilized; then brought to OHSU where successful triple bypass surgery was performed.

Today Kathy Ryan is in good health and – having run the Hood to Coast Relay every year for the past decade – vows to participate again this year. Her story was singled out by the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross for the team effort it exemplified. The name of Ryan’s relay team, ironically, was “Heart ‘N Sole.” Another irony is that one of the OHSU surgeons, Howard Song, who days later would lead the surgical team who performed the bypass operation, also was running that day although he wasn’t nearby when she collapsed.

The three physicians who won recognition as “Team Heroes” at the Oregon Trail Chapter’s Fred Meyer Breakfast of Champions on March 11 were Howard Song, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery; Rami Alharethi, M.D., assistant professor of cardiology, division of cardiovascular medicine; and Karl Stajduhar, M.D., director, OHSU cardiology clinic and assistant professor of cardiology, all of the OHSU School of Medicine.

Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., president of OHSU, described the honorees, in a statement, as “exemplars of the dedication, professionalism and skills that OHSU physicians and front-line health care professionals bring to their tasks around the clock every day of the year. Drs. Alharethi, Stajduhar and Song stand in a line of heroes and heroines who played critical roles in bringing Kathy Ryan back to health. The two state troopers –Dee Rzewnicki and Terri Cassebarth -- who administered CPR at the scene right after she collapsed played a critical role and also were honored. The team of heroes also includes the EMTs who transported her to St. John Medical Center in Longview, the emergency room physicians at St. John Medical Center who did preliminary tests and stabilized Mrs. Ryan, the Life Flight crew who brought her to OHSU Hospital, the nurses and physicians in the cardiac intensive care units who cared for her before and after surgery, and, of course, the legion of superb professionals in the operating room.”

Here is a partial roll call of the other members of the team of heroes:

At St. John Medical Center, Holly Liberatore, M.D., was the physician in the emergency room who treated Mrs. Ryan for a laceration, performed tests to evaluate her condition and had her ready, within 100 minutes of arrival, to be transferred by Life Flight to OHSU Hospital. At OHSU she was taken then to the cardiac and medical intensive care unit in the OHSU Kohler Pavilion where nurse manager Nellie Osterman, R.N., and Jeanie Hodge, Ron Haragan, Karen Malcolm, Susan Vockert, Roumi Chtereva and Charles Taneous, all R.N.’s, oversaw pre-operative care. She was evaluated there and prepped for surgery by Drs. Alharethi, Stajduhar and Song.

Triple bypass surgery was performed in an operating room in Kohler Pavilion by Song and Matt S. Slater, M.D, associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery, OHSU School of Medicine. Assisting were Phillip Lund, M.D., attending anesthesiologist and visiting assistant professor, department of anesthesiology, OHSU School of Medicine; Paige P. Gerbic, M.D., anesthesia resident, OHSU School of Medicine; Mark Gilbert, certified physician’s assistant and instructor in cardiothoracic surgery, OHSU School of Medicine; Dustin Coles, perfusionist. The assisting nurses were Jana L. Iverson, Jan D. Epstein, Eddie Lee, and Jonathan Cochran, all R.N.’s. (Lee and Cochran are traveling nurses who were temporarily working at OHSU.)

After surgery, Mrs. Ryan was taken to the cardiac and surgical intensive care unit in OHSU Main Hospital where her care and recovery were overseen by nurse manager Cynthia Perez, R.N., and nurses Mari Little and Susan Mitchell, both R.N.’s.


About OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is the state’s only health and research university, and its only academic health center. OHSU is Portland’s largest employer and the fourth largest in Oregon (excluding government), with more than 12,400 employees. The university’s size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support activities not found anywhere else in the state. It serves patients from every corner of the state, and is a conduit for learning for more than 3,400 students and trainees. OHSU also is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to each county in the state. As a leader in research, OHSU earned $307 million in research funding in fiscal year 2007. OHSU serves as a catalyst for the region’s bioscience industry and is an incubator of discovery, averaging one new breakthrough or innovation every 2.7 days, with more than 4,100 research projects currently under way. OHSU disclosed 132 inventions in 2007 alone, and OHSU research has resulted in 33 startup companies since 2000, most of which are based in Oregon.