BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — One registered emergency room nurse from Baton Rouge General Bluebonnet was brought back to life after she died on the operating table during a routine procedure. Her colleagues rushed to save her after a code blue was called throughout the hospital. Her name is Valerie Amato.
“They apparently had told my family she is stable, but she is critical. We don’t know if she is going to make it. I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock,” said Valerie Amato, registered nurse, Baton Rouge General Bluebonnet.
Amato has atrial fibrillation and was diagnosed about 10 years ago.
“Atrial fibrillation is a disorganized rhythm from the top chamber of the heart. It can cause serious problems for patients. It can cause symptoms, and it can put patients at risk for stroke,” said Mark Pollet, M.D.C, FACC, Baton Rouge Cardiology Center.
“I was doing fine. Then I went back into afib and Dr. Pollet said, let’s just do a cardioversion. It’s a very routine procedure. No complications. So, the anesthesiologist says, I’m going to put you to sleep now. And that’s the last thing I remember,” said Amato.
On Aug. 5, 2022, Amato went in for a routine cardioversion at Baton Rouge General for her atrial fibrillation. Dr. Pollet was her doctor and registered Nurse Victoria Comeaux was in the operating room with him.
“The procedure went smoothly until we discovered that her underlying condition was actually sick sinus syndrome and the atrial fibrillation was disguising that rhythm. This is a very rare situation and oftentimes is unpredictable before the procedure,” said Dr. Pollet.
“Usually rhythm is just a low heart rate. But she kind of hung out in the twenties and then after that went down to like 14 and zero. So we pushed the code blue button, slammed the head of the bed down, started compressions and then at the point where we knew we kind of needed ICU, respiratory, pharmacy, that’s when we called the actual code blue over the whole hospital. It hit home because she’s you know, she’s a nurse. She works here,” said Comeaux.
Comeaux also said when they called code blue overhead everybody came running, including her emergency room coworkers. Amato woke up two days later in the ICU.
“When I opened my eyes, I think it was two days later, I saw my sisters, my mom, my brother, my children, PJ my daughter who lives in Mississippi, my son Josh, who lives in Arizona. I looked up and I thought, I must, I must have died,” said Amato.
Amato also woke up nervous because she couldn’t talk.
“I had a tube in my throat, which means you can’t talk because it goes right through the vocal cords. So I’m trying desperately to talk, and I realized I had an E.T. tube and then I tried to lift my hands and I couldn’t. I looked around and I had wires coming out everywhere,” said Amato.
Soon after Amato asked Dr. Pollet if she could go home and he complied.
“The next day I started walking. Keith was still with me. My boyfriend Keith, he was still with me. He stayed here for about a week and he and I, we walked like a couple of houses down the street. And then we would come back the next day. We went three houses down and came back. By the end of the first week, I was walking all the way down and back. By the second week I was walking a mile,” said Amato.”It was kind of like a reunion, It was so sweet. Everybody was, Oh my God, she’s back and a lot of people said, we didn’t think you were going to come back. We thought after this you were going to retire,” said Amato.
Amato said she is grateful for her teammates who saved her life. She said she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.
“I love my ER peeps. They’re awesome. The doctors, nurses, everyone I work with, I love. They’re just amazing people. I’m much more grateful. I’m much more grateful. I’m happy to be alive,” said Amato.
Amato has worked in the emergency room at Baton Rouge General Bluebonnet for the last 15 years.