Monday, November 18, 2013

Just Act! (He Survived)

In February of 2006, while at my desk, speaking with one of my members at the gym, one of our personal trainers shouted, "We have a member down".

From where I was, I got a glimpse of the scene, realizing a few people were assisting someone on the main work-out floor. I ran to the small white wall-mounted cabinet which contains the AED (Automated External Defibrillator) we had recently installed.

When I returned to the scene of the incident, indeed two members whom saw another collapse had begun CPR. Focusing on the task at hand or at least the one for which I was now responsible, I opened the AED.  The next several minutes seemed more like an hour, but at no time did I ever feel disoriented or at a loss for what to do next.

Even with the increasing noise level, more onlookers hovering nearby and the realization that the victims health was waning quickly, I was somehow able to remain collected and calmer than I would have ever imagined.  The victim had gone from a healthy skin tone to a pale bluish-gray, much cooler skin temperature and bloated facial features.

Fortunately I wasn't alone - the audible and visual instructions given by the AED itself guided me assuredly through an otherwise chaotic and traumatic situation.  I had received AED orientation and training (most certainly beneficial), yet I couldn't have assisted this victim so clear-headed and efficiently had it not been for the guidance provide by the AED.

The AED, obviously in charge, went from pulse analysis to shock recommendation and back to more analysis while CPR was being performed. I became more at ease and more hopeful for the victim.

After the second shock was applied, while CPR was being performed and further analysis by the AED, I was waiting for and perhaps heard the recommendation for a third shock.  As I moved into a better position to monitor the victim's condition and to confirm the shock command, the AED advised, "No shock required".

Shortly afterward, all involved began to notice varying signs of recovery - breathing, motion, etc.  He was back.

In an attempt to identify the victim (his first visit to the gym and an environment where identification is not usually carried), I asked the member closest to him to ask his name.  Before he could do so, I believe I heard the victim utter, "Jim".

Thanks to expedient responses from our local fire and police departments, we soon had professional care on the scene.

One may notice I have reflected more on my composure rather than the condition of the victim.  Fortunately Jim recovered and only he can reflect upon what he felt and experienced - very little as he was unconscious during the majority of the incident.  His trauma was later diagnosed as a major heart attack.

The point being:  I am not an emergency responder.  Anxiety and fear most definitely came over me as I ran to retrieve the AED.  I was about to journey somewhere I had never been - aiding in the attempt to save someone's life.  The closest I had ever come to this was treating mock injuries in the military.

Doing my best to remain calm and knowing not doing so would only impede me from effectively aiding the victim and others attempting the same, I truly became more confident and relaxed once I opened the AED and realized how much assistance and instruction I had at hand.

From first attaching the AED pads to Jim, to applying the second shock and receiving the final hopeful analysis, the AED held my hand and walked me through this event until we noticed renewed life in Jim.

A week or so later, the gentleman who had given me all of 30 minutes of (outstanding) training on an AED, made a visit to the gym to see me.  I received a huge “Congratulations” from him, for which I was thankful.

Then I heard, “You made history.” I was taken aback thinking how grandiose this sounded particularly from a guy who had been in the emergency care field for about 30 years.

“What do you mean?” I said. In his reply he told me the saving of a cardiac arrest victim’s life occurs only about 7 percent of the time outside of a hospital.

I had gained such great respect for AED’s and was wondering what could possibly be wrong with them and I said, “But, the AED worked wonderfully.” He began a smile accompanied by a slight chuckle and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “No, the AED’s are fine. It’s not that. Most people simply don’t act in time and a life is lost.” The point was made.

May I never be in this situation again, but if so, I hope for mine and the victim's sake, there is an AED nearby and one or a few caring people who have taken the time to learn basic life-saving techniques such as those utilized by those two members.

Jim Parker received successful double bypass heart surgery and was back in the gym two weeks afterward under physician's consent (not recommendation).  Jim is healthy - his heart condition is hereditary rather than resultant of poor fitness or diet.

He had not so long ago preferred to get his exercise running alone on trails.

We are glad Jim was with us that February day.

Don’t wait. Just act.

Doug Ingbretsen
November 11, 2012

                      Heart Health Omega III