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A Miracle of the Heart

Over the course of his acting career, Kurt Caceres has played a wide range of roles in programs like NCIS, Prison Break, Hawaii 5-0, and many others. But to the physicians and staff at Community Memorial Healthcare who revived Kurt after his cardiac arrest, he will always be remembered as their miracle patient.

On December 7, 2022, Kurt and a friend traveled to Ojai, CA, for what was intended to be a relaxing weekend. Just ten minutes after they checked into their hotel, Kurt complained of feeling faint – and passed out. When his friend was unable to wake him, she called 911.

The hotel staff moved Kurt to the ground and administered CPR. When the paramedics arrived and took over, they shocked Kurt’s heart 12 times and administered several rounds of medication in attempt to restore a normal heart rhythm. They also performed continuous CPR while preparing him for transport to the Emergency Department at Community Memorial’s Hospital in Ojai.

When Kurt was brought into the Emergency Department (ED), forty minutes had passed, and he still had no pulse. The ED team, led by emergency physician Dr. Mathew Koger, noted pulseless electrical activity (PEA) and continued to provide Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and administer medication. Miraculously, pulses were restored. The medical team determined that Kurt was experiencing a return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) and placed a breathing tube to protect his airway.

Kurt suffered a cardiac arrest, a condition in which the heart abruptly stops beating. Not to be confused with heart attack, which is caused by a blockage in the arteries around the heart, cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction of the heart, causing the heart to beat irregularly and ineffectively. The victim loses consciousness immediately and without medical intervention, the likelihood of survival is low.

Backed by the extensive capabilities of its sister hospital in Ventura, Community Memorial Hospital ‒ Ojai is an essential rural healthcare resource. The relationship with Community Memorial Hospital ‒ Ventura allows for seamless transfer of patients when a higher or more specialized level of care is needed. Community Memorial Hospital – Ojai has the capabilities to treat and stabilize critical patients – something they do on a regular basis. However, those requiring hospitalization in a Critical Care Unit, surgery, or heart catheterization must be transferred. Given the severity of Kurt’s condition, it was clear that immediate hospitalization was necessary.

Once intubated and stabilized, he was prepped for critical care transfer.

In under 30 minutes, Kurt’s ambulance handed him off to a waiting medical team at Community Memorial Hospital – Ventura. Still unconscious, he underwent a series of tests to evaluate the condition of his lungs, heart, and brain.

Over the next two days, the team at Community Memorial continued to perform tests and evaluate Kurt’s condition. On December 9, two days after hospitalization, Kurt’s breathing tube was removed after he began breathing on his own.

On December 11, Kurt was taken to the Community Memorial Cath Lab, where Interventional and Structural Heart Cardiologist, Dr. Omid Fatemi, performed a diagnostic heart catheterization, which showed no evidence of coronary artery blockage. It was determined that Kurt likely had an electrical malfunction of his heart that could be treated by placement of an Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator, or ICD. The next day, Kurt underwent a minimally invasive ICD implant procedure performed by Cardiac Electrophysiologist Dr. Johnathan Dukes.

The group of experts who participated in Kurt’s care included critical care/pulmonologist(s), hospitalists, neurologists, cardiologists, and electrophysiologists. Countless nurses, cardiovascular technologists, EMTs, nurse technologists, respiratory therapists, and support staff also played a role in Kurt’s miraculous recovery.

Four days after his pacemaker implant, Kurt was discharged and transferred to an acute rehabilitation center closer to home. There, he was able to recover with the support of friends and his 11-year-old daughter.

It’s been more than a year since Kurt’s cardiac arrest, and he has made a remarkable recovery. He is currently revisiting a beloved sideline to his acting career – producing podcasts. His podcast What’s Your Name Again features interviews with actors, producers, directors, and other Hollywood insiders. A second podcast, Roll Call, focuses on true stories about inspiring people. Kurt is in the process of rolling out a third podcast where he will interview people who have survived near-death experiences.

On December 7, 2023, Kurt visited our hospitals in Ojai and Ventura to meet and thank the dedicated medical teams who saved his life. That day, he says, was “the most profound, moving, life-changing event of my life, other than the birth of my daughter.” The reunion was as emotional for the caregivers as it was for their patient. "They can say for the rest of their lives that they were part of a miracle – they made it happen.” says Kurt. “I can't thank them enough. I don't remember the care I got, but I can tell by the life I'm living today that they gave me beyond the best care. My appreciation for life, for people, and for everything around me started because of the medical communities in Ojai and Ventura."

The Chain of Survival

According to the American Heart Association, more than 356,000 people have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the United States every year. Unfortunately, 60-80% of them die before ever reaching the hospital. Kurt was one of a fortunate minority who survived thanks to the availability of the right care at the right time.  According to the American Heart Association, there are six links in the "Chain of Survival" for cardiac arrest:

  • Recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system
  • Early CPR with an emphasis on chest compressions
  • Rapid defibrillation
  • Advanced resuscitation by EMS and other healthcare providers
  • Post cardiac-arrest care
  • Recovery (including additional treatment, observation, rehabilitation, and psychological support) 

Thanks to the exceptional care and collaboration of local EMS and our hospitals in Ojai and Ventura, Kurt Caceres passed through every link in the Chain of Survival.  He has made a miraculous recovery, and he shares his story in hope of inspiring others and expressing his gratitude for the life-saving care he received.