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Near-death experience – and a life saved – at Jungle Club

Photo: IRMC Nurse Christine Scales and Michael Pinheiro

When Michael Pinheiro tumbled backwards and collapsed unconscious on the floor after completing his workout at Jungle Club last Monday, his life hung in the balance.

At age 40, he had suffered a severe heart attack with complete closure of his left anterior descending coronary artery – the classic “widow-maker.”

And if it weren't for the near-instantaneous and seemingly perfectly synchronized actions of a handful of Jungle Club patrons and staff members, Pinheiro’s wife might very well be a widow today, with six children to care for on her own.

As it was, Indian River Medical Center registered nurse Chris Scales, who happened to be close at hand, Sheriff’s Department Lt. Roger Harrington, and others immediately rolled Pinheiro over, cleared his airways and performed CPR – the classic emergency procedure in which the heart is stimulated by a rhythmic series of hard chest compressions.

Then, as the CPR compressions continued, they forced air into the U.S. Army veteran’s lungs and administered electrical shocks to re-start his heart with an automated external defibrillator the gym keeps handy.

Because of those quick effective actions, Pinheiro was still very much alive when a county Fire and Rescue team showed up in response to the 911 call placed when he hit the floor.

The medics took over emergency care and transported him to the Indian River Medical Center, where yet another team awaited.

At the hospital, ER physician Dr. Michael Farrell, interventional cardiologist Dr. Joshua Kieval, ICU and critical care physician Dr. Diego Maldonado and cardiologist Dr. Alan Rosenbaum all set to work to stabilize and prepare Pinheiro for a cardiac stent procedure.

Much like the scene at the Jungle Club – where club employees Katie Smith, Brittany Klotter and Taylor Bird, personal trainer Billy Dayton and IRC Fire & Rescue’s Brandon Kahl all jumped into action to save the fallen man – many members of the ER and hospital staff played vital roles in seeing to it that the Pinheiro family remained intact.

Three days later, that same group of Jungle Club “friends and acquaintances” gathered inside Pinheiro’s hospital room just before he was released and sent home with his wife, Rachael.

Pinheiro, a big man, was now walking, talking and moving as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He has precious few memories of that fateful day, but when he saw Scales, he immediately enveloped her with a giant, gentle bear hug.

Choking back her emotions, Scales said, “I’ve been in nursing for 42 years. I was an aide for 20 years and a nurse for 22 years. I’ve helped a lot of people and did make a difference, I think, with a lot of patients . . . but I’ve never in my life had anything that touched me like this whole experience has.”

The Pinheiro family very likely agrees.

The American College of Cardiology has important information about early heart attack care (EHAC) available for everyone to read on their website at: