Dear Dr. SerVaas,
In August 2008, my husband, Frank, and I arrived at the Seattle Airport after a 10-hour flight from Europe. We had just picked up our bags when Frank’s eyes suddenly opened wide. As he started to fall over the luggage rack, I cried out for help. Almost immediately, two men lowered him to the floor and two women began CPR. Then the men got a defibrillator. The first shock didn‘t help Frank, but the second one did.
Months later, a doctor called to find out if Frank was still alive. He is, and he does not have brain damage. The doctor said the first shock was given 2½ minutes after Frank’s heart stopped and that the paramedics arrived in 5½ minutes. There are no words to express our appreciation to the people who helped a perfect stranger. Even a customs supervisor came over to help. I hope everyone who was so kind to us will read this letter, especially the two young ladies!
We hope they do, too! Your letter is a good reminder that sudden cardiac arrest can happen anywhere and anytime. We’ve been advocating for years that automated external defibrillators (AEDs) should be as common as fire extinguishers. Fortunately, the lifesaving devices are now in visible locations at airports, stadiums, and some schools and churches. But most heart emergencies happen in the home. As the adage goes: Plan for the worst and hope for the best. When determining your response to a heart emergency at home, consider: Are you or a family member trained in CPR? Where is the nearest AED? How long will it take for the AED to arrive? Is it feasible to have a home defibrillator or one in a neighborhood clubhouse or lockbox? Today’s AEDs are so simple that almost anyone can use them without prior training. If you are in a position to help save a life by using an AED, remember three things: 1) recognize a heart emergency; 2) open the AED box; and 3) follow the prompts.