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Cardiac arrest survivor and grateful patient raises $13,200 to benefit St. Michael’s cardiac departments

Toronto, May 8, 2016

By Kendra Stephenson

Image of the Sexton family
Wife Joanne Sexton, Emergency Medical Dispatcher John Shirley, Paramedic Jamie Burnett, Paramedic Jocelyn Hewitt, Joe Sexton, Daughter Christina Clayton, Son-in-law Shannon Clayton, Daughter-in-law,Cynthia Sexton, Son, Dustin Sexton, Paramedic Marcin Bober, Paramedic Student, Dan Smith, Son-in-law, Eamon Clark, Daughter Hayley Sexton, front row: Grandchildren, Dempsey and Hadley. (Photo: Toronto Paramedic Services)

Joe Sexton was clinically dead for 49 minutes after suffering a cardiac arrest in his home on the morning of Feb. 21. His wife JoAnne called 911 and started CPR immediately. Paramedics took over a few minutes later and they finally got a pulse back almost an hour later.

Once he was stable, Sexton was transferred to St. Michael’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit where a stent procedure was performed to reopen his coronary artery. Sexton’s doctors then placed him under heavy sedation and cooled his body temperature to 33 degrees Celsius in an effort to protect his brain.

“While I was sedated, my family and friends were preparing for the worst,” said Sexton, a long-time East Toronto resident and well-known local contractor. “From what I understand, being technically dead for that long is hard to come back from.”

Norine Meleca, clinical leader manager of the Heart and Vascular Program, recalled that Sexton’s family never left his side during his time in the cardiac care unit.

“The staff in the unit really connected with the Sexton family,” said Meleca. “There was such positivity in that room, with family and friends talking to him and playing music at the bedside. He was surrounded by love and the health team really worked to support the family in providing that environment.”

Sexton woke up two days later and immediately showed some promising signs, reacting to light, sound and pain. A day later Sexton started recognizing voices and faces, wanted to start writing and by the following Sunday – one week after his cardiac arrest– he was walking, talking and checking emails.

Image of the Sexton family presenting their cheque
Joe Sexton and his family present a cheque to St. Michael's Hospital with the proceeds from their fundraising event, A Ticker of a Time, that benefited the hospital's cardiac care unit and cardiology departments.
“The health team really worked hard to facilitate an active patient experience and implement a patient-family approach,” said Meleca. “They got to know the family, tried to understand their needs, provided space and information – the family was truly a partner in Mr. Sexton’s care.”

Sexton was discharged home on March 2, just 10 days post-cardiac arrest. His family, friends, doctors, nurses and health team all agree: Joe Sexton is a miracle.

In gratitude, Sexton and his band “A Piece of the Rock” hosted a fundraising event, A Ticker of a Time, on April 30 at Daniel’s Spectrum Toronto to benefit St. Michael’s cardiac care unit and cardiology departments.

“I had planned to do a show with my band on April 30, before my heart attack, but when I woke up in the hospital, I knew what our next gig would be,” said Sexton. “I wanted to give back to the people who saved my life; I am just so grateful to everyone who helped me through this ordeal.”

Sexton personally greeted and thanked paramedics, firefighters and medical staff of St. Michael’s Hospital – including Meleca and about a dozen other staff – for helping him be here today.

The Sextons raised $13,200, with 363 people attending the event, which featured live music, a silent auction and CPR demonstrations.

Photos from the event

Photo from the A Ticker of a Time event

Photo from the A Ticker of a Time event

Photo from the A Ticker of a Time event

Photo from the A Ticker of a Time event

Photo from the A Ticker of a Time event

Photo from the A Ticker of a Time event

Photo from the A Ticker of a Time event

Photo from the A Ticker of a Time event

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.