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Portable defibrillator saves the life of Osoyoos senior
A group of hockey players rallied together to save an Osoyoos senior after he suffered a massive heart attack at the Oliver Arena less than two weeks ago.
Harold Cox was playing hockey when he collapsed on the ice on January 17.
“He was dead,” recalled teammate Jeff Crowley, who was one of several people who saved Cox’s life by using an automated external defibrillator (AED), a device that shocks the heart back into rhythm.
Crowley said he knew right away that Cox likely suffered a heart attack when the 72-year-old went down.
So he immediately asked someone to call 911 and grab the AED in the arena office.
Crowley was concerned that the AED was not mounted in the front foyer for easy access, but luckily, staff member Mark Silbernagel was in the office at the time.
“If he wasn’t there, we would have had to bust the door down,” Crowley said.
Since the incident, a new AED model has been installed in the arena’s front entrance.
Crowley said they started working on Cox immediately, doing CPR and hooking up the AED.
He admitted they didn’t really know what they were doing, but the AED, which has a voice activation feature, basically talked them through the procedure.
Pads are placed on the patient’s chest and the machine verbalizes when to press the “shock” button.
Crowley recalled Cox’s whole body reacting to the jolt of electricity. The man then started breathing and his pulse returned.
“He came back to life … it was amazing,” Crowley said.
Crowley admitted the minutes on the ice seemed like hours. They didn’t have time to feel any emotion until after the incident.
Fellow player Marty Whiteman said it happened so fast that it was all a “blur” to him.
Doug Hume began administering CPR, while Bryan Coles opened the defibrillator and followed the instructions.
“Harold was not breathing at this point and we could not get a pulse,” Whiteman said.
After the shock button was pressed, Cox responded immediately.
“He started breathing again, but started to choke. We rolled him on his side, removed his teeth and this seemed to clear his air passage,” Whiteman said.
He noted the entire ordeal scared everyone involved.
“Most of us couldn’t sleep (that night),” he said.
Whiteman will never forget the moment Cox came back to life. There was so much relief that everyone involved let out a collective cheer.
Fellow player Steve Arstad admitted the incident came as a shock to everyone.
“Jeff Crowley was a great quarterback, providing instruction, encouragement and assistance overall,” he said.
Arstad said the difference in Cox’s condition was dramatic.
“His face was pale and ashen before the shock, and almost immediately after, began pinking up again,” he said.
Arstad said the AED was instrumental in reviving Cox, adding having these devices in public places is a great idea.
He couldn’t say enough about everyone who worked hard together during a time of immense tension and pressure.
“I’d like to say that I’m proud to be associated with such a caring, compassionate and team spirited group of guys,” he said.
Whiteman and Coles recently visited Cox in the hospital. He is looking well and maintaining his sense of humour as he awaits surgery – a quadruple bypass.
Parks and Recreation manager Carol Sheridan was thrilled to hear the news that the AED was used to save a life.
She confirmed a new AED unit has been placed in the arena lobby in a heated cabinet. Another one is destined to be placed in the community centre by the end of February.
Sheridan explained that AEDs need to be stored in warm environments or else they won’t work properly.
She noted that all parks and recreation staff have been shown how to use the AEDs, but they will undergo more comprehensive training.
Parks and recreation obtained its AED from the Heart and Stroke Foundation through the Public Access to Defibrillation (PAD) Program.
AEDs are portable devices that read the heart’s rhythm and delivers a shock when needed. The user is prompted to press the “analyze” button.
If a shockable rhythm is detected, the user is instructed to press a button to deliver the shock. If no shockable rhythm is detected, the AED will not deliver a shock and the user is instructed to perform CPR for two minutes. After these two minutes, the analyze button is pressed again and the sequence continues.
Sheridan said commencing CPR (chest compressions) immediately after someone has suffered a heart attack is essential.
This is done before the AED is set up. Usually one person commences CPR while the other places the pads on the patient’s chest and pushes the analyze button.
In B.C., the current survival rate for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patient is only 12 per cent.
When CPR and AEDS are used together in the first few minutes, survival rates may increase up to 75 per cent.
Each year, up to 40,000 Canadians experience sudden cardiac arrest and as many as 85 per cent occur in public places or in the home.
Special to the Times