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Sudden Death - Ventricular Fibrillation
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Sudden Death - Ventricular Fibrillation

I lost my beautiful, adored father March 13, 1999.  He was only 66 years old.  Dad had undergone quintuplet bypass surgery in 1990, and had experienced a "mild" heart attack in April, 1998 (we were told "no real damage).  We all believed he was okay.
Dad awoke the morning of 3/13 with severe chest pains; after experiencing what he thought was indigestion the night before.  The normal rule of thumb was to take 3 nitroglycerins to stop the pain; if that failed...get to the hospital.  Well, the nitros were'nt working; he was getting ready to go to the hospital.  Within a matter of minutes, Dad was gone.  My mother found him stretched across the bed.  She supposed he was just resting, letting the pills take effect, when in fact he was lifeless, limp, his face was turning blue and a rattling sound was present.  He also had blood around his mouth.  My mother tried CPR; not really ever having any training, the paramedics arrived 5 minutes after the call.  All normal procedures were performed to no avail. An autopsy was not performed; as based on his history, the doctor believed Ventricular Fibrillation was the cause of death.  

My questions:  I know ventribular fibrillation is a chaotic heart rhythm.  What exactly happens during this mode?  How could he have died so quickly?  Was there pain?  What actually happens?  I was told it is the most peaceful death.  Also, if an aspirin had been taken instead of the nitros, could that have helped the situation?  Why didn't the nitros help?

Please respond with any input you feel appropriate to help me/us better understand what actually happened to my father.  Thank you.
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238668_tn?1232735930
My condolences on the loss of your father.  You are probably right as to the cause of death.  Ventricular fibrillation is a chaotic heart rhythm that can be precipitated by periods of ischemia.  The only "cure" is electrical cardioversion.  Death occurs after about 5 minutes of this rhythm (due to lack of oxygen to the brain) and it is painless.  Aspirin probably wouldn't have helped.  The nitro helps with ischemia but has no effect on ventricular fibrillation.  Again my sympathy and I hope this helps answer some of your questions.
4 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
I am speaking from my personal experience, I have had 3 v-fib x3 and was lucky enough to have survived them. Your father never felt a thing. The only thing that could have saved him would have been medical personnel right there and they defibulated(shocked) him at just the write moment. v-fib will only lasts a few seconds before the heart stops. Even then it is not a 100% chance...more like 50/50 it would begin to beat normally.The nitro did not help prob. because the problem was electrical in nature not vasoconstriction.
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Avatar_n_tn
My sympathies on the loss of your father.  My own father died of heart failure at the age of 56.  I suffered ventricular fibrillation in 1998 (at the age of 44).  The EMTs performed CPR and defibrillated me on site and were able to bring me back--I realize how lucky I am.  I now have an implanted defibrillator which has "brought me back" 7 more times.  Each time I pass out within less than a second of feeling faint.  I do feel it is a peaceful way to die because it is so fast you don't even have time to feel scared.  I hope this helps you have some peace about your father's untimely passing.
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238668_tn?1232735930
Thanks for your comments.  I am sure they help the family quite a bit.
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