Escape to Quogue

Written By: Todd J. Cohen, MD


I am an electrophysiologist. I implant devices, perform electrophysiological studies, induce arrhythmias, and ablate left and right. I needed an escape!

And so . . .

It is 4:00 AM on August 4, 2001. I am lying in bed, thinking about the ocean waves and my best buddy, Justin. Justin is almost 9 years old. He is athletic, fun to be with, but most of all, he dreams of beaches. He dreams of the sand, the waves, the bumps, and of course the sandbars. As I lie in bed, I think “wouldn’t it be great to wake up my buddy and escape to Quogue.” Quogue is a quiet New England-like hamlet located on the Atlantic Ocean on Long Island, New York. As I lie there, I dream of the beach, the waves, the surf, the sand, stopping for breakfast in Westhampton, and a morning of fun and frolic. So, I get out of bed and go next door to Justin’s room. There he is, fast asleep, almost angelic, cuddled underneath the blanket. I quietly stroll in and say, “Justin, would you like to go to the beach?” Justin awakes and sleepily asks, “Can we?” I say, “Sure, but you’ll have to get two bathing suits and two shirts, and you have to put your shoes on.” He pops out of bed and gets ready while I grab my clothes, some snacks, and towels. We load up our green Toyota Camry wagon and away we go. As I pull out of the driveway, I grab the New York Times and then head east on the Long Island Expressway to beach heaven. As we drive, we munch on Wheaties and Justin sips chocolate milk while I drink orange juice from a water bottle. We laugh and joke about fun on the beach and talk baseball.

Justin recounts the most amazing catch by Yankee Bernie Williams in which he leaped through the air to catch a fly ball to give the Yankees a 4–2 win against the Anaheim Angels. As we pull off the highway into Westhampton, we stop at a small bakery to get a chocolate croissant, and I grab a cup of hazelnut coffee. We drove from Westhampton to Quogue and pull into the Quogue Village beach. Justin grabs his baseball bat and balls. I grab the towels, the newspaper, the food, and a chair, and we are off to the beach.

The weather is slightly overcast, and the surf is rough with a strong undertow, so we did not venture far into the waves. But what we do is escape! We have a great catch on the beach. I toss three-dozen tennis balls up towards Justin and he proceeds to catch most of them. He then pretends to be a great pitcher for the New York Mets, throwing balls at my glove with amazing speed for a 9 year old. We then go for a jog up and down the beach and frolic at the edge of the surf. Returning to our beach stuff, we pack it in before the beach formally opens at 10 AM. We shower, load up the car, and pull away towards home. With that, you would think that our adventure is over in Quogue . . .

but, . . .

It is only the beginning. As we pull on to the Long Island Expressway, I notice a blue helicopter hovering above us and I say, “Hey Justin, look at that helicopter.” Justin says “WOW” and I ask, “Why is it just hovering there right above the highway?” As we pull closer and closer to the helicopter, we see a red jeep turned over on its side and another car badly damaged. I then see an ambulance, which has just arrived on the scene, and a group of men trying to revive a man. I pull off to the side of the road, and I ask, “What’s happening?”

I’m told that a man had passed out while driving and got into a bad accident. They say they are attempting to help this man and bring him back to life. I tell them that I am a doctor who specializes in heart rhythms, and they ask whether I would help. I respond, “Sure,” and tell Justin, “stay in the car and do not move. I will be back. I am going to try to help save this man.” So I approach the scene where a group of firemen and paramedics are trying to help the injured man. He does not have a rhythm. His heart is not beating. They are trying to perform CPR and circulate blood throughout his body. He is hooked up to an external pacemaker/defibrillator that shows “ventricular fibrillation.” I proceed to shock him . . . 360 Joules, asystole, CPR, epinephrine, external pacing, ventricular fibrillation shock, epi, Lidocaine, etc, etc., until we restore sinus rhythm and he has a pulse and blood pressure. We then transfer him by stretcher to the helicopter for transport to the nearest hospital.