Robert Kinderman came back from the dead. His story made national headlines in 2016 when first responders performed CPR for an astonishing 73 minutes, after Mr Kinderman suffered a prolonged cardiac arrest at just 59 years of age. Reunited in Melbourne this week with Dr Dion Stub, the interventionist cardiologist whose groundbreaking treatment saved his life, Mr Kinderman said “every day is a miracle.”
The four years since his clinical death have been devoted to living a grateful life. Strong in their faith, he and wife Esther have travelled to Israel and visited son Ezra in Europe.
Mr Kinderman chokes up when asked how he felt walking out the hospital doors after an eight-week stretch that included a week-long induced coma. His family did not know who or what would be left when he opened his eyes. Mrs Kinderman said her husband still gets emotional thinking about it.
“They told (Ezra and me) he had less than one per cent chance of survival … The nurse told me that night, ‘He is the sickest person here’. Then to make a full, total recovery? It’s a miracle, miracle, miracle and we have so much gratitude,” she said.
Bringing back patients previously considered “unsurvivable” began in 2012 with Dr Stub’s CHEER trial (CPR, Hypothermia, ECMO and Early Reperfusion). That Australian first produced unheard of success and his work continues pushing boundaries of what is achievable in patient survival rates and functional recovery.
“Part of my PhD was looking at patients who had refractory cardiac arrest, so we couldn’t restart their heart. Instead of essentially giving up on them, we would … bring them into the Alfred Hospital and put them onto a heart lung machine portable device called ECMO,” Dr Stub said.
After astounding periods of cardiac arrest lasting between 70 and 80 minutes, patients including Mr Kinderman have made a full recovery. The CHEER technique is now being adopted in hospitals around Australia and the world.
Dr Stub said he is “incredibly indebted” to organisations like the Heart Foundation, which supports his pioneering projects in ambulance and ICU protocols.
“Heart disease, heart attacks, cardiac arrest are still essentially the biggest killers in Australia. Despite the big gains we’ve made in reducing their incidence and improving outcomes, it’s still an enormous burden on the community. My research wouldn’t be possible without the Heart Foundation’s support,” he said.
The Kindermans kept in touch with Dr Stub and now consider him part of their family.
“We really thank God every day and we’re very grateful to Him and all his wonderful angels, the nurses, the doctors, the ICU staff, the ambulance – everyone for all their efforts,” Mrs Kinderman said.
Her husband’s incorrigible sense of humour also survived his body’s profound trauma intact, much to the delight of his clinician, family and many friends.
“I thank God for every time I move, every time I think, every time I can do everything – it’s just such a miracle,” Mr Kinderman said. “Does this mean I’m as famous as Brad Pitt now?”