Man saved from multiple heart attacks is still in critical care

Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2009

On Tuesday morning, two off-duty Coast Guard officials helped save the life of retired Douglas volunteer firefighter and Navyman Winston Neal Arnold, 61, by rendering CPR at the intersection of Mendenhall Loop Road and Stephen Richards Drive.

According to his wife, Rhodina, 59, Arnold - known as Neal to his friends - suffered a total of approximately five massive heart attacks that morning. As of Friday, Neal Arnold was still in the Adult Critical Care Unit in Anchorage, but his heart was beating on its own, she said.

"He's experienceing a little progress," she said Friday. "By all means, he's not out of the woods, but they're letting him mend.

"We call him the miracle child back there, because he gets good and then he gets bad, and then he gets good and he goes bad."

Neal Arnold, the IT and maintenance supervisor at the Diocese of Juneau, and his wife, a grandmother to four and retired Alaska Airlines representative, are 20-year Juneau residents and registered foster parents.

According to Rhodina Arnold, they were actually both scheduled for Jury Duty the day of the incident.

"We'll probably get a subpoena to go to court," she said jokingly.

Somehow, after hearing her description of that morning, one would guess the couple would be excused.

That morning, Rhodina Arnold said she was taking her husband to the hospital from their home on Parkview Court when he stopped breathing and grew stiff. Even though both are certified in CPR, she could not get him out of the car, because he was too heavy for her to lift. Needing help, she thought to go to nearby Duck Creek Market, but it appeared closed.

"So this was all I could do, was block traffic until I found somebody," she said.

Luckily, after pulling near the intersection to flag down cars, Coast Guard Chief Ryan O'Meara and Executive Petty Officer Robert Canepa stopped to render CPR until the ambulance arrived.

"The Coast Guarders, they saved his life," she said. "Everyone really did a fantastic job."

After arriving at Bartlett, Neal Arnold received critical care and was soon air-lifted to Anchorage.

"That (Bartlett) staff is so fantastic," Rhodina Arnold said. "They worked on him solidly for three hours just to get him stable enough to get him up here (to Anchorage). It was non-stop. I've never seen people work together so hard to save a guy's life."

Rhodina Arnold and her family are extremely grateful to all who helped along the way: O'Meara, Canepa, the nurse who rendered aid at the intersection, the girls who she said took her car to the hospital, Bartlett Regional Hospital staff and the Airlift Northwest Alaska flight nurses Karen Lenihan and Rick Jark.

"They've called and checked on us," she said. "They've offered food to take to the children, anything. It's nice to have friends like this. I've had people come out of the woodwork to help. It's just so nice."

Even while in Anchorage, Rhodina Arnold said her husband has had off-duty nurses checking to see if he's OK.

"It's just a miracle that they are so concerned," she added. "And he's got all kinds of prayer change going for him. I mean everybody's rooting for him."

Neal Arnold is being seen by a heart specialist, kidney specialist and neurologist, to check for brain damage. He was taken off dialysis Friday.

In all the chaos, Rhodina Arnold is thankful her husband is still alive and hopes that others will realize the importance of knowing CPR and rendering aid.

"You never know. I mean, this is something we didn't ever expect to happen to us," she said.

• Contact Kim Andree at 523-2272 OR

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