Vital Signs

St. Louis Nurse Leads Rare, Prospective Study

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and I didn’t quite know what to say to them or how to handle it. Would you please come and talk to them?” I even had physicians come up to me and say, “You know, I had one of those experiences myself.”

So once I started the study, I was surprised at how much interest a variety of medical professionals had within the hospital and the university. As time went on, some personnel would ask, “How’s your study going, how many patients do you have? Tell me.” These people then told other professionals, and a number of their patients contacted me directly.

VS: The three other co-authors of your study—how did each of them get involved?

dr_paul_r_eisenberg
Dr. Paul R. Eisenberg,
Vice-President,
Internal Medicine,
Lilly Laboratories

JS: Dr. Paul Eisenberg, Director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at the time, heard of the study and became very interested. He helped track cardiac arrests with me in that unit, and told me that he would help when I got to the point of writing up the study. Even after he left as director of the unit [to join the Eli Lilly Research Laboratories in Indianapolis— Editor’s note], he followed the progress of our project.

Dr. Alan Weiss and I had been working together in cardiology for many years, and he was very supportive of the study from the beginning. He came with me on a number of the interviews and helped organize the data.

 dr_kenneth_schechtmanDr. Kenneth Schechtman,
Director of Biostatistics
Consultation, Washington
University Medical School

And Dr. Kenneth Schechtman was recommended to me as an expert statistician by Dr. Eisenberg. Dr. Schechtman is associate professor of biostatistics at Washington University.
VS: Did you get help from any experienced NDE researchers, like the first person to publish a prospective study, Dr. Michael Sabom?
JS: I actually didn’t meet Dr. Sabom until he and Dr. Bruce Greyson came to St. Louis for the 1993 IANDS conference. That was two years after I’d begun the study. During that time I’d been in contact with Dr. Greyson, having sent him a copy of my research proposal at the beginning. So before contacting Dr. Greyson, it was only by reading the published literature that I knew how to design the study.

VS: What kinds of practical problems did you have to solve in order to accomplish the study?
JS: First, I hadn’t realized how difficult it would be to get a large enough sample of patients having a true cardiac arrest who could be interviewed right after their resuscitation. I started out thinking, “I’ll just follow everyone that has a code” [the hospital’s emergency call for resuscitation]. But when I checked their medical records, I realized that only 73% of those were true cardiac arrests, which was the group that I really wanted, and 68% did not revive, so only 17% could be interviewed.

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