A Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital nurse practitioner helped save the life of a man who suffered a near-fatal heart attack while playing volleyball.


Ryan Marinas – a nurse practitioner in Houston Methodist Sugar Land’s Emergency Department – was walking into the Fort Bend YMCA in Missouri City with his wife and children one afternoon when two women ran past, urging the receptionist to call 9-1-1.


“I immediately went into work mode,” recalled Marinas. “I ran into the gym where people had been playing volleyball, and there was a gentleman on the ground.”


That gentleman, 66-year-old Daniel Baker, had collapsed in the middle of his twice-weekly pickup volleyball game. Baker had taken a step back to reach a ball that was over his head when he suffered sudden cardiac arrest and fell backwards onto the ground.


“I think most of the other players just thought I tripped,” said Baker. “I’m in relatively good shape for my age, and I had no previous symptoms or signs of heart trouble.”


When it became clear Baker was unresponsive, one of his teammates began administering chest compressions. Another person found the YMCA’s automated external defibrillator (AED) and brought it to Marinas who was kneeling next to Baker.


“I had a brief moment of panic not being in the ER and out of my element, but then I heard the women praying behind me, and it gave me a sense of calm. I realized that I had been trained for this type of emergency, and just needed the AED to do its job," Marinas said.


Marinas attached the AED to Baker and administered a single shock, followed by chest compressions.


“The AED did what it is designed to do – it restarted Mr. Baker’s heart,” said Marinas. “His skin went from blue to pink, and his eyes opened up. In fact, he tried to sit up right away, and everyone said, ‘No, no, no, lay back down.’”


Baker was taken by ambulance to Houston Methodist Sugar Land for further evaluation, where he was treated by interventional cardiologist Michael H. Koo, M.D., and electrophysiologist Apoor Patel, M.D.


“Mr. Baker had a 99% blockage in his left anterior descending artery, which caused his sudden cardiac arrest,” said Koo. “That type of heart attack is often fatal, and Mr. Baker was extremely fortunate to have immediate help in the form of chest compressions and the AED. Everyone there that day worked together to save his life.”


The following day, Koo implanted a stent to open the arterial blockage and restore blood flow, and Patel tracked Baker’s heart function to ensure there was no arrythmia, or irregular heartbeats. Baker left the hospital two days later, without the physical or cognitive damage that often accompanies a heart attack.


Koo says there are precautions every person can take to reduce their risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks.


“The first step is to eat right and exercise regularly,” said Koo. “Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol within the recommended guidelines. Get an annual physical and ask your physician to perform an EKG. And if you have any risk factors, such as family history of heart disease, see a cardiologist, who can perform a coronary calcium scan to check for evidence of a buildup that can lead to ischemic heart disease.”


When Baker was recovering at Houston Methodist Sugar Land, Marinas stopped in to say hello. Baker had no memory of Marinas or the incident, but he was thrilled to meet the man who helped save his life.


“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have everything go so well for me,” he said. “It really was a miracle that he was there to help me when I desperately needed it.”