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  • Staff photo by COREY PERRINE

    Jane Matteuzzi, left, of Manchester, and Dr. Dori Columbus sit on the couch that Jane picked up after seeing it on Craigslist last week. However, when moving the couch, John, Jane's husband, suffered a heart attack. Immediately, Dori and her husband, Joe, also a doctor of dentistry, administered CPR until paramedics arrived about five minutes later. Jane suffered two black eyes and a bruise to the forehead after the backside of the couch hit her head. "All I know is that Dori said it would be okay," Jane said. "Trust me, I was nervous. Those five minutes seemed to last forever." John survived because of the Columbus' efforts and is scheduled to be released tomorrow from the hospital, according to Jane.
  • Staff photo by COREY PERRINE

    Jane Matteuzzi shows off her wounds sustained to her face.
Friday, January 22, 2010

Heart attack victim in right place at right time

NASHUA – John Matteuzzi has a days-long blank spot in his memory, but he’s lucky to have a memory left at all.

Before waking up in a St. Joseph Hospital bed last a week ago, the last thing Matteuzzi remembers is trying to lift a couch onto the roof of his SUV. The 55-year-old Manchester resident has a husband and wife dentist team to thank for saving his life when his heart stopped beating outside their Nashua home last week.

“I’m feeling very lucky and very, very grateful,” Matteuzzi said from his hospital bed this week. “If it wasn’t for them, my 11-year-old would be without a father right now.”

Matteuzzi and his wife, Jane Matteuzzi, were at Drs. Joe and Dori Columbus’ Tanglewood Drive home Jan. 13, picking up a sectional couch they had purchased through Craigslist. Joe Columbus was helping the couple lift the last section of the sofa onto the roof of their car when John Matteuzzi said he wasn’t feeling well and had to stop. Suddenly, he took a step away and fell over backward.

Joe Columbus quickly checked for a pulse and to see if Matteuzzi was breathing. When he found neither a pulse nor breathing, he ran inside to call 911 while Dori Columbus came outside and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions, Jane Matteuzzi said.

“It was really quick. My thoughts were, ‘Oh my God, I’m losing my husband,’ ” she said.

Joe Columbus came back outside, still talking to the 911 operator, and took over for his wife. They switched back and forth, keeping the blood pumping through John Matteuzzi’s veins for an estimated 10-15 minutes until paramedics arrived, Dori Columbus said.

“I knew they were very well trained. I just stepped back and let them go,” Jane Matteuzzi said. “They knew exactly what they were doing. That was the big thing, not interfering with them.”

Paramedics took over CPR, at one point using a portable defibrillation to shock John Matteuzzi’s heart back into a normal rhythm, and took him to St. Joseph Hospital.

They took Jane Matteuzzi, too, in the front of the ambulance, because the couch slid off the car and opened a cut on her forehead when her husband collapsed. Dori Columbus followed the ambulance and stayed with Jane Matteuzzi until the rest of the Matteuzzi family arrived from Manchester.

“She went way above and beyond, both of them did, what they needed to do,” Jane Matteuzzi said.

John Matteuzzi was still at St. Joseph this week after having surgery to have a small defibrillator implanted in his chest. The defibrillator will monitor his heart’s condition and, in the event it needs to, automatically administer a shock, he said.

It’s not the first time his heart has troubled him. He had quadruple bypass surgery a decade ago, he said, and has a family history of heart problems.

Joe and Dori Columbus are re-certified in CPR annually as a requirement of their state dental license. The couple opened Columbus Dental Care in Hudson when they moved to Nashua six year ago. Dori Columbus grew up in Hudson.

She said she and her husband were last certified at New Hampshire CPR in Manchester last May.

“I tell you, they train you well,” she said. “You don’t even think about it. You just do it.”

Christopher Malley, Paramedic and owner of New Hampshire CPR, said his company certifies 500-600 people, from health professionals to day care owners, a year.

Malley said most cardiac arrests don’t involve an actual stopping of the heart. Instead the heart enters ventricular fibrillation, which means it basically jiggles around in the chest without actually pumping blood.

Chest compressions will move blood, and therefore oxygen, to the body’s vital organs and also preserve the ventricular fibrillation until the heart can be shocked back into a normal rhythm. Shocking a heart that has completely stopped, or flat lined, won’t do a thing, Malley said.

“What CPR does is it buys time,” he said. “Good CPR buys time until advanced support gets there.”

Joe Columbus said the only thing going through his mind while John Matteuzzi lay on the ground were all the CPR training courses he’s attended.

“I would definitely recommend everyone take a CPR course,” Joe Columbus said.

That’s one thing John Matteuzzi said he plans to do with his family when he’s back on his feet “so that maybe we can pass this gift on to someone else.”

Until then, he wonders at the chances he hit when his heart attack struck while he was in the company of two doctors who were trained in CPR and were also cool under pressure.

“They’re a couple of very, very special people,” he said. “We could use a few more of them in this world.”

Jane Matteuzzi explains it with no ifs, ands or buts allowed.

“These two people are my heroes. I have to tell you that,” she said. “My son (Brian) is 11 years old. If it wasn’t for them, he wouldn’t have a father. These two are my heroes, big time.”

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com.