National Center for Early Defibrillation

Survivor Stories

State troopers save one of their own

Trooper Isaac Lanham, 31, is alive today, thanks to the rescue efforts of his co-workers who used their new automated external defibrillator (AED) to save his life on July 3rd. Lanham, a trooper with the Pennsylvania State Police, was on patrol when he began to feel ill and returned to the Greensburg barracks. Fellow troopers Thomas O’Connor, Rusty Hays, Cpl. Robert Stauffer and Cpl. Christopher Karnes were urging Lanham to go to the emergency department, when he suddenly collapsed. They retrieved their AED from the communications room and delivered multiple shocks. Paramedics later provided additional shocks and advanced life support and transported Lanham to Westmoreland Hospital where he underwent balloon angioplasty.

"He (Lanham) is expected to stay in the hospital a few more days and then return to a normal quality of life," said Captain Frank Monaco, Greensburg commanding officer.

The Pennsylvania State Police began rolling out its AED program in July 2000, according to Cpl. Lou Southard, state police information officer in Greensburg. A total of 150 devices have been placed at state police facilities. Ironically, Greensburg received its device just last month and one of the rescuers was trained last week.

"The role of the law enforcement officer is ever changing, and the Pennsylvania State Police want to remain a leader in providing protection to the public," said State Police Major Robert Einsel.

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Mother’s crusade helps save teenager’s life

Sean Morley, a 13-year-old boy from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, suffered sudden death after being hit in the chest a baseball estimated to be traveling at 60 miles per hour. Deerfield Police Officer, Geoff Ruther, happened to be passing by at the right time with his automated external defibrillator (AED). Sean was resuscitated and is expected to be back in the game soon.

Area police are equipped with AEDs thanks to the efforts of a local woman, Lauren Gerber, who has an implantable cardiodefibrillator (ICD) and whose children have heart conditions.

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Sheriff's department has first save

A deputy from the Bartholomew County (Indiana) Sheriff Department used a portable defibrillator to re-start the heart of a citizen who had collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest. Sgt. T.A. Smith, an 18-year veteran of the department, responded to a report of a man having chest pains around 5:15 AM on Wednesday, November 1. As 56-year-old Wayne Fleetwood described the pains to the officer, he suddenly collapsed and stopped breathing.

Sgt. Smith quickly applied one of the sheriff’s department’s newly acquired AEDs (automated external defibrillators). After determining that Fleetwood’s heart was in a fatal rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation--or VF-- the device prompted the officer to push the shock button. The man’s wife and 31-year-old daughter watched as Sgt. Smith delivered the shock and started CPR. Within moments, Fleetwood regained consciousness and began breathing on his own.

Paramedics arrived a few minutes later and began advanced care of Fleetwood, who was alert and talking while being transported to Columbus Regional Hospital. After being treated in the emergency room, he was transferred to the intensive care unit, and later to St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove, where he underwent surgery. He was released a few days later.

The sheriff’s department has 15 AEDs, which were donated by Bartholomew County HeartSavers, Inc., a non-profit organization that raises money to purchase AEDs and help train emergency responders in their use. The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department has been participating in the early defibrillation program since January 2000, when 61 full-time and reserve deputies completed a four-hour class on the use of AEDs.

Detective Jay Frederick, who led the charge to establish the Bartholomew County AED program could not have been happier. "We have our first save!" said Frederick. "T.A. was one of the first deputies trained. He has attended all the refreshers and says it was easy---just like the training."

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Save on the slopes

A mother of two young sons is alive today because of her choice in ski areas. Three days after Christmas in 1997, the 39-year-old woman and her 7-year-old son boarded Lift 3 at Telluride. Within moments, she went into sudden cardiac arrest, passed out and tumbled18 feet off the lift while her son looked on in horror.

The fall actually saved her life - by allowing ski patrollers to reach her before the chair reached the top of the Colorado resort.

Telluride ski patrollers arrived within minutes, equipped with an automated external defibrillator.

Patrollers Keith Renke and Jason Rogers started CPR while Mike Shoo and Jill Curtis hooked up the AED.

"From the moment someone goes into cardiac arrest, we've got less than 10 minutes to deliver treatment," said Curtis. "Lift 3 takes nine and a half minutes from top to bottom on a good day and usually longer during the busy holiday season."

The ski patrol lashed two rescue toboggans side-by-side to get the patient off the mountain. One sled held the woman, the other carried a patroller managing her airway.

The Chain of Survival for the "Miracle lady," as her physicians call her, stretched from Telluride's snowy slopes all the way back to Arizona, where the woman lives.

Patrollers handed their patient off to emergency medical technicians from the town of Telluride. Then, medical crews airlifted her to St. Mary's Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., where she was stabilized and then flown to Tucson Medical Center. In Tucson, medical tests indicated a need for an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.

The timing couldn't have been better: Telluride Ski & Golf Co. had placed its AEDs in service only a few weeks before the dramatic incident.

"It was only the quick and skillful action of your ski patrol in reaching her, recognizing ventricular fibrillation, and applying CPR and then a defibrillator that brought her back from the brink of death," the patient's parents wrote Telluride. "Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

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The big heart of a grateful survivor

Rollin "Mac" McClanahan was having dinner with his wife, Ruth, when he stood up to greet some friends and then collapsed on the floor. Two friends, Stan Spreckelmeyer and Sgt. John R. Wheeler, recognized that McClanahan was in cardiac arrest and immediately began CPR, while restaurant personnel called 9-1-1. Paramedics Ty Barnett and Doug Lutes arrived three minutes later and used their defibrillator to shock his heart back to a normal rhythm. McClanahan was transported to W.S. Major Hospital in Shelbyville, Indiana and later transferred to St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis, where he received an implantable defibrillator to prevent future emergencies.

Since then, McClanahan has actively campaigned to improve access to defibrillation in the local community and surrounding areas. "Cardiac arrest is not a heart attack," he said. "It's much worse. Without warning, the electrical signals that pump the heart go haywire and the heart stops beating. The victim passes out almost immediately. On July 8, 1998, this happened to me. Thanks to many great people and their professional training, I am here today. I'm trying to give something back to the community to show how grateful I am to be alive."

McClanahan was instrumental in raising funds through local businesses and citizen donors to buy automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for the Shelby County Sheriff Department. He hopes one day to embark on a statewide campaign to ensure that all sheriff departments carry AEDs.

According to Mike Dellinger, of the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, "Mac has the biggest heart and the best intentions. He really wants to help people in the community."

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Save in the air

Roland and Mary Koenig were on the way from their home in Colleyville, Texas, to a long-awaited vacation in Australia. They were enroute from Los Angeles to Sydney on Qantas flight QF12 when suddenly, as the aircraft was crossing the North Pacific more than 1,000 miles from Honolulu, Roland began to experience shortness of breath.

"I saw him pass out," Mary said later, "but I didn't realize that his pulse had stopped." She rushed from her seat, heading toward the back of the aircraft to find a flight attendant. By the time she found someone and returned, another flight attendant, David Furey, had reached the victim and determined he was in cardiac arrest.

"I couldn't detect a pulse," Furey said. "I had just been speaking with a passenger in 74G who was a doctor, so I sent someone to get him. He quickly confirmed my assessment and said, 'Let's start.'"

The victim was seated 16 rows from the doorway, and as luck would have it, he was in the window seat. Furey and the doctor moved Koenig to the aisle near the left doorway. A curtain separated the rescue effort from the main passenger cabin.

Then Furey, one of 350 Qantas flight service directors who have been trained to use AEDs, immediately applied the protocol he had learned through in-service training.

Within minutes of determining cardiac arrest and just 35 seconds from the time the defibrillator was brought to Koenig's side, Furey delivered the first shock. After three shocks, a stable rhythm was achieved.

The pilot, Jeff Westwood, announced that there was a medical emergency and that it would be necessary to land in Honolulu. The passengers, who never voiced a complaint, broke into applause at the news that Koenig had been resuscitated and appeared to be stable.

The aircraft was then diverted to Honolulu. Koenig was conscious on arrival, two hours and 20 minutes after treatment. After 16 days in the hospital, he was discharged and sent home.

"I was very fortunate to be on Qantas and to have David Furey ready with his magic machine," Koenig later said. "I'm awfully happy to be here."

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Security guard saves plant worker

It was June 3, 1997, one day after Barry Lowden's wedding anniversary and one day before his 49th birthday. It was early in the morning and Lowden was on his way to work at a General Motors plant in Indianapolis. He had just walked through the security gates when he turned blue and fell flat on the floor. A security guard was on the scene in seconds with his newly acquired automated external defibrillator.

Lowden was shocked immediately, transported to the hospital, discharged a few days later, readmitted for further care and later received an implantable defibrillator. "I still have no memory of the event of the week or so afterwards," said Lowden, who retired to spend more time with his family. "I'm sure glad it worked out the way it did."

Lowden later became a vocal advocate for early defibrillation initiatives in Indiana. Many observers believe it was his testimony during 1998 state legislature hearings that convinced lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 171, which enables more widespread use of AEDs in the state. Lowden's message was plain and persuasive: "I would not be standing before you today if it were not for God and the AED that saved my life."

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Police officer armed with AED saves a life

On October 25, 1997, a 71-year-old male visiting the city of Rochester, Minnesota, was on his way to a restaurant for dinner when he began to feel short of breath. Within moments, he collapsed in the foyer of the restaurant. Bystanders found him to be unresponsive, so they called 9-1-1. He was breathless and pulseless, so they began CPR.

The 9-1-1 call was received at the law enforcement dispatch center at 17:16. The first police squad was dispatched and arrived at the scene at 17:17. A second squad car in the vicinity was dispatched and arrived a few seconds later. The first arriving police officer confirmed that the man was unresponsive, breathless and pulseless, and he immediately attached an automated external defibrillator (AED). The device was turned on 2.4 minutes from the time the call was first received at dispatch. The device recognized ventricular fibrillation (VF) and delivered a shock 3.3 minutes from the time of call receipt. A pulse was restored with the first shock. After arrival of the paramedics, two additional shocks were delivered for recurrent VF, both of which restored pulses.

Paramedics began an intravenous infusion of lidocaine and then transported the patient to the hospital. Upon arrival, he was responding appropriately. Cardiac catheterization confirmed the presence of three-vessel coronary artery disease. On October 29, he underwent coronary artery bypass surgery. He made a rapid and uneventful recovery and was discharged from the hospital several days later.

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Firefighters save one of their own

At first his classmates thought he was dozing. Then they realized that Ron Hale, a 33-year-old off duty Rainier, Oregon, firefighter, had slumped in his chair because he was a victim of sudden cardiac arrest. Ironically, Hale succumbed in the middle of a safety officer training class. The students, who were all fellow firefighters, confirmed that Hale was unresponsive, was not breathing and had no pulse. A training center employee immediately called 9-1-1, as the students began CPR. Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue Training Officer, Mark Stevens, and Beaverton Fire Department Lieutenant, Marc Reed, rushed for the AED and delivered one shock.

"He converted to a perfusing rhythm after the first defibrillation," said Stevens. "When our first responding engine arrived from three minutes away, they found a victim who was awake and breathing on his own." They stabilized him with lidocaine and then transported him to the hospital.

"Thanks for the quick thinking and proficiency of these students and the equipment on hand at the training center, Ron is alive today," said Karen Eubanks, Public Information Officer.

The following month, Hale, his wife, two children and the rescuers were reunited in a special ceremony. "I was personally blessed to see my five-year-old daughter play with his five-year-old daughter," said Stevens. "She had a daddy to celebrate Christmas with, thanks to early defibrillation...How many more people can enjoy another Christmas due to the use of AEDs?"

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What a difference a day makes

Sherri Taylor, 37, a Toronto area resident, suffered cardiac arrest but was resuscitated, and a short while later felt "fantastic," thanks in part to a program that equipped York region ambulances with defibrillators just one day before the incident. Taylor had been watching a parade with her three daughters, aged seven to 14, when her heart stopped suddenly. Quick action by a police officer who called the ambulance, immediate CPR by two off-duty nurses who happened to be nearby, and arrival of the ambulance within two minutes of the emergency call, all contributed to her survival.

The ambulance attendants "shocked her right on the spot," said Bill Taylor, the woman's husband. It was the first time the EMS personnel had used their equipment in an emergency. "It's truly a miracle that she's alive."

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Leaving Las Vegas...alive and well

In the summer of 1997, security officers at the Stardust Resort and Casino in Las Vegas used an AED to save the life of Thurman Austin, 63, of North Carolina, who suffered sudden cardiac arrest. It was the first known save by a hotel employee who was not a medical professional. Boyd Gaming Corporation had installed AEDs three months before the event and the Clark County, Nevada, Fire Department had provided training.

Security officers William Cage, Darryl Ryales and Kye Choe were able to administer the first shock within about two minutes after collapse. When paramedic, Roger Brook, and engineer, Jim Johnson, arrived three minutes later to take over patient care, Austin was breathing on his own and had regained consciousness. Half an hour later he was sitting up in his hospital bed and talking with his wife, Gwen. "If we had not come to Las Vegas and been at the Stardust Hotel," she later said, "my husband would be dead."

Since then, Boyd has installed 15 units in all seven of its Las Vegas properties. Training coordinator, Richard Hardman, has instructed more than a thousand security officers so far. "It's quite interesting to see how apprehensive the officers are when we begin, wondering 'Can I hurt anyone? Can I hurt myself?' But by the time they walk out the door, five hours later, they're completely at ease with the AED."

Early concerns about liability dissipated with the signing of an assembly bill that brings AED use under protection of Nevada's Good Samaritan law. "We argued that the patient is already clinically dead," said Hardman. "We can't make him worse off than he already is."

Now that Boyd Gaming has set a standard for the local entertainment industry, other properties are following suit. According to Ken Riddle, Las Vegas Fire Department Deputy Chief, 25 hotels are equipped with AEDs. In the eight months following the first save, there have been 25 cases of cardiac arrest. Nineteen patients (76%) were admitted to the hospital, and 12 patients (48%) were discharged, all without neurological deficit.

There have been other benefits as well. The AED program has created "a whole new corporate culture," said Medical Director, Keith Boman, MD. "Security guards have a new sense of purpose. They have taken this on 110%. They really feel like they can make a difference."

The Rockford Fire Department in Rockford, Illinois, (pop.150,000), first began to phase in early defibrillation capabilities in 1994. By the spring of 1996, 200 personnel were trained and all companies and 11 fire stations were ready to go. According to training officer, Steven Bishop, in the first month of the program, three victims of sudden cardiac arrest were resuscitated. The first case involved a male in his early 70s who collapsed in a restaurant. He was revived by the time the ambulance arrived. In the second case, no sooner had one of the engine companies completed in-service training, than it received a cardiac arrest call. Firefighters were able to resuscitate the male victim and he had a perfusing rhythm by the time the ambulance arrived. The third case occurred shortly afterward and today the victim is "alive and doing well."

Getting the AED program underway was fairly simple, Bishop said. "We received funding through the usual city fire department budgeting process and purchased the units gradually over a three-year period. Then we got up to speed with initial training and set up a cycle for retraining on a regular annual basis. We didn't run into any problems."

Did the firefighters mind the extra training and responsibility? "On the contrary," said Bishop. "They all believe firmly in their role in EMS. They like the responsibility of using the machines, knowing that AEDs will help them save lives. The AED training program has been good for our personnel, good for public relations and good for the community."

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Two things that saved my life

A testimonial by Randy Schulz, Katy, Texas

"I woke up on Mother's Day in 1992 feeling edgy and tense. I thought I would go jogging at Memorial Park and get some physical exercise-blow out the tension. Well, I blew it out all right.

"I drove to the park, chatted with a few passersby and started jogging. One mile into it, I began to feel a vague sense of panic. I didn't feel any chest pain. The last thing I remember was someone saying, 'Sir, are you okay?'"

"I learned later that as I collapsed, three people happened upon the scene-a young lady who had just taken a CPR course a few weeks before, a cardiology fellow and an off-duty nurse. It was the most amazing sequence of events. At just that moment, someone drove by and asked if he could help. The others sent him to go call 9-1-1 while they kept administering CPR. I had no heart beat-no pulse-nothing.

"Then, EMTs from the local fire station arrived and shocked me several times. At the hospital, I was shocked once more. By now, my wife had tracked me down and she had the whole Second Baptist Church praying for me.

"I was 48 at the time and had never been diagnosed with heart disease before. Even knowing the consequences, it was hard to change my lifestyle. Now I don't smoke, I don't drink, I eat sensibly and I'm still exercising. I've made a lifetime commitment to doing what you're supposed to do.

"Two things saved my life-CPR and the fact that the defibrillator was there within five minutes. Without that defibrillator, I would not be here today."

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Angel with an AED

On Saturday, January 31, 1998, Mark Vollmar, 41, an off-duty police officer, was driving to the store with his two sons, Nicholas, 9, and Christopher, 5, to buy a birthday present for Nicholas. They were on a busy thoroughfare in Muncie, Indiana, when Mark went into cardiac arrest and slumped over on top of Christopher. Nicholas couldn't get his father's foot off the gas, so he turned off the ignition. The car coasted safely to the front lawn of a church. Many observers grabbed cell phones and ran into stores to call 9-1-1, a motorist flagged down a police car, and two off-duty nurses who happened upon the scene began CPR. Daniel Hahn, the Delaware County police officer who was summoned simultaneously by the 9-1-1 call and the waving motorist, used his newly acquired AED for the first time. The time from collapse to the first defibrillatory shock was three minutes. After three shocks, Mark's pulse came back. EMS personnel arrived a few minutes later and stabilized him. He was released from the hospital one week later. On February 27, the mayor of Muncie gave keys to the city to Daniel Hahn, and the Vollmar boys at an awards ceremony at city hall. If you have ever wondered whether a community AED program is worth the effort, consider the words of Sonya Vollmar, Mark's wife.

"I would like to thank all the wonderful, caring people who cheated death and breathed life back into my husband. By breathing life back into my husband, Mark, you also breathed life back into our three sons, Nicholas, Christopher and Michael, as well as our beautiful little daughter, Danielle, and of course, myself. Our potential tragedy has become a great triumph, our mourning has become joy, our grief-stricken frowns have been turned into overflowing smiles of thankfulness... It took many angels to turn this tragedy into triumph-my son, Nicholas, who at age nine used wisdom beyond his years to stop the car before it crashed into more vehicles-the two nurses, Barbara Amos and Stephanie Henry, who responded so quickly-and the mysterious motorist who stopped Danny Hahn and advised him of the situation. Little did this motorist know, he had just contacted an angel of life for my husband... Danny, the defibrillator is a lifeless machine that really doesn't care if my husband lives or dies. It took your hands to get that machine to save my husband's life. You are a hero, Danny, to my children and me... Thank you, Delaware County. Without your support in providing these life-saving machines in police vehicles, my husband, my children's father, would be gone... Thanks to all of you for restoring life... You are the light that shines in the darkness and makes the darkness go away."

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