Joan Rivers “Resting Comfortably” After Medical Emergency

Comedienne Joan Rivers is now “resting comfortably” in a NYC hospital after experiencing a cardiac arrest during a medical procedure. The 81-year-old Fashion Police host was undergoing a medical procedure on her voice box at a physician’s office when the emergency occurred. She was transferred by ambulance in critical condition to Mount Sinai Hospital.

Daughter, Melissa Rivers, rushed from Los Angeles to be by her mother’s side. A spokesman later released a statement saying:

“Her family wants to thank everybody for their outpouring of love and support. We will provide an update on her condition as it becomes available.”

Ironically, Joan, who looked the picture of health at a performance at the New York’s Beechman Theater on Wednesday night, joked about death during her act:

“You know I’m 81 years old, and I could drop dead at any moment and you would be so lucky because you will have a story to tell your friends for the rest of your life.”

According to audience member Michael Lucas, she then “mimicked people talking about what it was like to see her drop dead on stage.”

As this is an evolving story, we will update you as more information becomes available.

Cardiac arrest is a medical term which implies that a heart has stopped beating. It is not the same thing as a heart attack (myocardial infarction) where blockage of blood flood to the heart muscle causes part of the muscle to die. If a large enough area of heart muscle dies, the heart will have difficulty beating and cardiac arrest will ensue.  There are many other causes of cardiac arrest as well, including  respiratory arrest, electrocution, drowning, choking and trauma. Cardiac arrest can also occur without any known cause.

Because the heart is not beating, oxygen is not being delivered to all parts of the body. Loss of oxygen to the brain causes the victim to lose consciousness and to stop breathing. Permanent brain injury is likely if the cardiac arrest is untreated for more than 5 minutes. Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency, but it may be reversible if treated early enough.  The primary first-aid treatment  for cardiac arrest is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (or CPR), and should be started as soon as possible and continued until emergency personnel arrive on the scene. Current recommendations for CPR for adults has recently been simplified into what is called “Hands Only CPR.”  It has only two steps:

1. Call 911 (or have someone else do it)
2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest.

Studies of real emergencies that have occurred in homes, at work or in public locations, show that these two steps, called Hands-Only™ CPR,can be as effective as conventional CPR. Providing Hands-Only CPR to an adult who has collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest can more than double that person’s chance of survival.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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