Potholes are seriously unpopular. Nobody likes driving over them, especially in an important or expensive vehicle, like, for example, an ambulance.
But hitting a pothole while riding in an ambulance allegedly saved a 59-year-old Nebraska man’s life.
On April 15, 2019, Gretna Rescue paramedics were called out to attend to a middle-aged man who was suffering from a dangerously rapid heartbeat at work. They rushed to the scene, assisted their patient to the ambulance, and set off to hospital with sirens roaring, all the while attending to the patient’s condition and monitoring his vital signs.
The patient had no history of heart problems, but his heartbeat, according to ABC 13, was registering at 200 beats per minute. For context, Mayo Clinic suggests that “a normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.”
During the 7-mile ride to Lakeside Hospital, 6 News reported, the ambulance couldn’t avoid hitting a “monster-sized” pothole, which under normal circumstances may have been a setback, though not on this occasion. The sudden jolt shocked the patient’s erratic heartbeat into returning to a normal pace.
At this juncture, it’s important to note that potholes aren’t usually covered in Lakeside’s treatment plan.
Whether your interpretation is that of a miracle, fluke, or a stroke of extraordinary good luck, doctors do admit that it’s rare. But it’s not impossible.
“It’s rare, but it’s a well-described phenomenon,” Nebraska Medicine’s Dr. Andrew Goldsweig confirmed, a resident expert although not the physician on the case of the extraordinary pothole potluck.
“One way to treat that is with an electrical shock,” Goldsweig explained. We’ve all seen medical dramas on the television in which a patient’s heart stops beating, and the medical team uses paddles, or “defibrillation,” to administer an electric shock. The shock quite literally jolts the heart back into action.
“Turns out, you can do that with a pothole,” the doctor continued, who also cited a case from the late 1970s in which a patient’s heart was “jolted” back to a normal rate by a benevolent speed bump.
First response service Omaha Scanner posted live information on Twitter as the calls came in: “Gretna Rescue en route Lakeside Hospital with a patient with a heart rate of over 200 bpm,” they wrote. “Gretna now calling them back to advise they struck a large pothole en route which converted the patients heart to a normal rate!”
The post was rapidly retweeted. “Proving potholes save lives,” commented one user. “You can’t make this stuff up,” said another.
The medical staff who treated the 59-year-old man at hospital after his ordeal, and his seemingly miraculous pothole-induced recovery, expect him to return to full health.
One question remains: where exactly is this life-saving concrete defect? Can we save the location for future reference? Sadly, it turns out that we’ll have to keep on guessing; Gretna Fire and Rescue’s chief politely refused to reveal the location of the pothole, fearing that any clues may compromise the anonymity of the patient.
There’s no doubt that the patient, at least, will regard potholes everywhere a little differently from now on.