AED Save at Austin Airport

AED saves early defibrillation advocate at Austin airport

March 28, 2001

Four of six airport victims have survived

When Gary Terry, former chair of the Texas Affiliate of the American Heart Association, worked to place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in public places in Texas, he had no way of knowing one would later be used to save his life. On the morning of March 19th, Terry, a senior vice president with Southwestern Bell, was rushing to catch a 9:42 PM flight. The last thing he remembered was passing through the metal detectors. The clock later showed he collapsed in cardiac arrest at 9:28 PM. A trained airport police officer, alerted by bystanders, used a nearby AED to restart his heart and save his life. Within a few days, Terry was making calls to state legislators from his hospital bed, urging their support for more widespread placement of defibrillators. He was discharged from the hospital nine days later.

"This was exactly what we had hoped (the program) would do," said Ed Racht, MD, Medical Director of the City of Austin and Travis County EMS. "The planets aligned and there was a perfect chain of survival. There was early access, since Mr. Terry collapsed in a public place. There was early CPR, started by a security guard. There was early defibrillation thanks to on-site AEDs. And there was early advanced care, started by paramedics. Although paramedics arrived quickly -- within eight minutes and 22 seconds -- the few minutes saved by having an on-site AED may have made the difference between life and death."

This was the sixth time an AED has been used at Austin-Bergstrom airport. Four people have survived neurologically intact. For Racht, this case was particularly meaningful. "This is the second time sudden cardiac arrest happened to someone I knew and worked with extensively. The first time, my colleague did not survive. This time, Gary survived and is the beneficiary of the program he helped promote. It's a great feeling and a powerful motivator. This really validates the need for a strong chain of survival."