Most young professionals are familiar with the heart-pounding, clammy sweat and free-ranging anxiety that accompanies an interview for a job they really want. Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Nathan Strutt answers questions from the media about surviving a heart attack and being Oregon's first recipient of an innovative heart rhythm-monitoring device at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

Few, however, actually experience a heart attack while selling their skills and experience to a prospective employer.

Nathan Strutt, 27, proved an exception. His chat with an Intel representative in Hillsboro in February was cut short by sudden cardiac arrest as his heartbeat switched to a life-threateningly irregular rhythm.

“It was a Thursday morning,” Strutt recalled. “The last memory I have, it was 9:15. There’s a two-hour window after that I don’t remember. We were in a café, talking one-on-one, and I slumped over in my chair.”

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue responders brought the Florida native back to life. Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Dr. Scott Brancato shows where a S-ICD device is implanted in a patient at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

Not long after Strutt arrived at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center near Beaverton, he became the first person in Oregon to be outfitted with an innovative new wireless defibrillator.

If Strutt’s recent participation in the 13-mile route of the Providence Bridge Pedal biking event in Portland is any indication, he’s taken well to the implanted device. Accompanied by Dr. Scott Brancato, Strutt shared his story as an Oregon medical pioneer.

The device uses a single wire traversing the chest to monitor the heart’s rhythm. The card deck-sized device delivers a shock to correct the beat if and when it becomes irregular.

Physicians consider the subcutaneous implantable cardiac defibrillator, or S-ICD, innovative for avoiding the need for wiring within the blood vessels and heart.

“The unique thing about the (S-ICD) is everything is entirely under the skin,” said Brancato, an electrophysiologist and cardiologist with Providence Heart & Vascular Institute. “It takes away the need for wires that lead to the heart.”

Strutt, who has no family history of heart problems or unusual medical history, spent about three weeks recovering from his approximately two-hour operation. Since having the device installed, Strutt has yet to experience an irregular heartbeat. Still, the device will be with him for the rest of his life.

“The only thing I feel is the presence of the device,” he said, noting how one cardiac event puts him at risk for subsequent heart arrhythmias. “I’ve become a little more health conscious.”

Strutt dismissed the idea that stress from his job interview — which he completed after his surgery, ultimately landing him an engineering gig — led to a cardiac event. If anything, the visit to Oregon provided a relief from the grind he’d been through.

“I wrote my thesis and defended my PhD,” he said of the period leading up to his heart attack. “It had been stressful for six months. I was glad to be out here in Portland.”

Brancato said Strutt is a prime candidate to receive the S-ICD, which has been approved for use in the U.S. for about a year.

“In general, it’s a huge advance,” he said, noting the device’s battery will need replacement about every five years. “Three to 4 percent of patients have a complication (usually) related to the wires. I think this is revolutionary technology for someone like Nathan.”

Strutt, now happily employed as an Intel engineer several months after his heart-interrupted interview, remains perplexed by the direction his life has taken this year.

“It’s incredible,” he said. “It’s still strange to think about. I can accept it, but I’m still not sure if it can happen again.”

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