Save Date: April 3, 2004
Location: Cuyahoga Falls, OH
It was April 3, 2004, and I had just finished 40 minutes of heavy fighting while teaching a karate and jujitsu class at a recreation center here in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I was talking with another instructor, just a couple of old guys dripping in sweat, and started to feel faint but no chest pain and no arm pain. I went down on one knee and when I woke up, the paramedics were standing around me loading me up onto a gurney. Sudden cardiac death made Marcie, my wife, a widow for almost three minutes. The recreation center was equipped with an AED and among the students in class that day were a cardiac nurse and dentist with extensive CPR training. The recreation center manager, Joe Fabick, had just finished his Red Cross CPR/AED recertification training the week before. While the others did CPR on me Joe hooked up the AED and it took two shocks to start my heart again. Joe told me later that I was turning blue and starting to look like a Smurf before my heart started again.
During transport to the hospital I was lucid and actually felt pretty good although I was still a little confused and wondering what exactly was going on. The seriousness of what happened hadn't fully struck me yet. The paramedics told me later that my wife, who rode in the cab of the squad, was very animated and verbal as she "encouraged" people to get out of the way of a paramedic squad with lights on and the siren blaring. Once I was in the hospital's emergency department the attending cardiologist asked me how I was feeling and I can remember challenging him to a stair climbI actually felt that good!
I was "only" 55 years old at the time of my event, I eat well, don't smoke, and I work out heavily all the time. However, high cholesterol is part of my family history. During my six days in the hospital it was discovered that one of my arteries is completely blockedthere isn't even a squirt of blood going through, but because I work out so much my capillaries had formed a natural bypass to the blockage. It was only a matter of time before something would happen.
I now have an ICD implant and can no longer engage in impact fighting because of the risk of ruining the device, but I still workout as much as possible and wear a heart monitor. I am a professor of sociology at The University of Akron and a research professor in family medicine at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine near Akron. Speaking engagements now take up some of my time and I have spoken on numerous occasions to a variety of groups about healthy lifestyles, CPR and AED training, motivating people to "get involved," and responding to questions about "my event." I have an ICD device that I can pass around as part of my "show and tell" and find it to be particularly useful when talking with youngsters. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about my event and what might have happened if I had been running outdoors, home alone, or had been driving with the grandkids in the car.
Marcie and I have two grown daughters and four grandchildren. For a while I would talk about how lucky I was to be near trained individuals who had immediate access to an AED. However, my oldest daughter was right when she told me "dad, you weren't lucky, you were blessed."