Heart-felt effort: How CPR training helped middle-schooler save his father’s life

During special reunion, RWJUH celebrates 2 patients who received life-saving heart care

Two miraculous efforts helped save Jim Hart’s life on Feb. 4, 2023. He only remembers one of them.

Shortly after driving home from his coaching his son’s basketball game on that day, Hart, 48, suffered a heart attack. His son, Daniel, who had just received CPR training in middle school, was able to position his father correctly and maintain a pulse before first responders could arrive.

Upon reaching Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Hart got a second boost: the installation of an Impella CP device to support his heart.

Impella CP with SmartAssist, one of the world’s smallest heart pumps, provides minimally invasive, temporary support for patients with heart failure that allows the heart to rest and recover. Impella CP stabilizes the patient’s hemodynamics, unloads the left ventricle and allows for native heart recovery.

It’s a story worth telling. Hart — and representatives from RWJUH — are eager to do so.

Hart recently returned to RWJUH in a reunion with the doctors who saved his life.

“I have become an ambassador for the American Heart Association,” Hart said. “I want to share my story, so others understand how important it is to know CPR. I share my story at schools, and will do media interviews, anything it takes so more people receive training. I will volunteer with them for the rest of my life. I lived because of this.”

Dr Ramzan Zakir, the director of high-risk percutaneous coronary intervention and research at RWJUH, noted the significance of CPR for surviving a heart attack.

“It’s a great example of the excellent care he received from his son performing CPR to first responders arriving quickly with an AED, to the Emergency Department, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, the Impella coordinator, Cardiothoracic Surgery and the care provided by our CVICU at RWJUH,” he said.

Hart additionally mentioned the improbability of surviving a heart attack in certain circumstances.

“Nine out of ten people with this type of blockage who have a heart attack outside of the hospital don’t survive,” Hart said. “I work from home Monday through Friday and I’m alone most times and would have been dead had it happened then. Everyone had to be here to save my life — I’m very thankful for that. I’m also thankful that Daniel’s school had the wisdom to start CPR training for eighth-graders.”

While being saved by your son’s knowledge of CPR makes Hart’s story a bit unique, he is not the only one who has benefited from the team at RWJUH.

Hart recently was joined at an event by Keith Hoch, a 71-year-old Toms River resident, who underwent a life-saving heart transplant on Jan. 9, 2021.