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Imagine you’re grocery shopping or working out at the gym when all of a sudden, you know something is wrong. A crowd gathers and when you move closer, you see a woman has collapsed. Quickly, you learn she isn’t breathing and doesn’t have a pulse. Would you know how to help?
According the American Heart Association, survival rates for the more than 350,000 cardiac arrests that happen outside the hospital each year are staggering: almost 90 percent will die. And even though cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) from a bystander can double or even triple a victim’s chance for survival, only 32 percent of heart attack sufferers receive aid from a bystander.
What’s more, 88 percent of non-hospital cardiac arrests happen at home, meaning chances are a loved one may need to provide emergency care until the paramedics arrive.
The proof is in the numbers. It’s worth the time to gather friends and family and get the most recent training in CPR.
Edward-Elmhurst Health offers an array of CPR and first aid courses to ensure as many community members as possible are prepared should the unexpected occur. Classes are available onsite or online, for individuals and families, and include subjects such as:
In addition to CPR, proper use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be the difference between life and death during the average 8-12 minutes it takes first responders to arrive following a call to 911. Learning how and when to use this device, which not only provides a lifesaving shock, but also tells the user when a shock is advised and when it’s not, is imperative in an emergency.
In a few, short hours, trainees prepare to use the device should the need arise, as it did for two Naperville residents this fall. Thanks to good training, quick reactions and staying calm, two men are alive today and looking forward to 2017.
It was 9:25 p.m. on a Friday night at Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness (EEHF) in Naperville when Christine Clutter, a relatively new employee, heard a loud thud to her left. Clutter ran to find member William Kovach unresponsive on the floor next to an exercise bike.
As Clutter approached, she stopped, instinctively backed up and returned to her workstation to call 211 over the loudspeaker, the in-house code used to notify all fitness center employees of an emergency.
Within seconds, fitness specialist and personal trainer, John DePasquale, and manager-on-duty, Jeremiah Nast, arrived and Clutter called 911.
“When I heard the code, I just had a feeling this was different,” DePasquale said. “I grabbed the first aid kit and the AED and ran over.”
Kovach’s foot was stuck in the stationary bike and the group spent a few seconds trying to free it gently, but it became clear he was going downhill. They pulled his foot out quickly, checked for breathing and a pulse, and when they couldn’t find either, DePasquale began compressions.
While Clutter was on the phone with 911, the team followed their specific instructions. When compressions failed to regulate his breathing or pulse, Nast hooked up the AED. By the time paramedics arrived and took over, Nast had shocked Kovach three times based on instructions from the device.
“For me, it was straight autopilot,” said DePasquale, a longtime lifeguard who had taken Edward-Elmhurst’s training class the previous summer. “Knowing emergency measures aren’t always successful, when he started talking, I started crying.”
When Kovach left with paramedics, he was alert and asking questions.
“The fact that we may have actually saved Bill’s life didn’t even hit me right away,” Nast said. “This is just a great reminder that these kinds of extraordinary circumstances can happen out of nowhere and because we have the training we do, and the willingness to help, someone is alive now.”
Naperville honored all three EEHF employees with the city's Fire Chief Citizen’s Award, but they're more excited about connecting with Kovach after the experience and knowing he’s well along the road to recovery.
“He’s just so grateful, both Bill and his wife are,” Clutter said. “I’m so glad we were there when we were and reacted the way we did.”
If you ask Jim Miller how he felt the morning before his cardiac event at a Naperville fitness center, he’d tell you he was just fine, the day was like any other.
“I didn’t feel a thing ahead of time,” said Miller, 51-year-old Naperville resident and married father of three daughters. “And then the lights went out.”
While on the rowing machine, Miller collapsed, drawing the attention of Jill Zuleg, a nurse in Edward Hospital’s Mother/Baby Unit, who was working out on a nearby treadmill.
“When something like this happens, it feels as if you’re in this tunnel. It’s a very scary feeling, but as a nurse in the hospital, you have an emergency button to press for help,” Zuleg said. “In this situation, I knew I needed to stay calm and just talk myself through it.”
Zuleg quickly realized Miller wasn’t breathing, confirmed he didn’t have a pulse and began CPR compressions. At some point, she saw the AED machine. She attached it, it analyzed Miller’s heart rhythm and shock was advised.
After the shock and chest compressions, Miller started moving and making noise.
“Hearing his voice was the best sound I have ever heard,” Zuleg said. “It was a true blessing that he woke up so soon after doing CPR and using an AED.”
By this time, Miller’s wife was there — his daughter, who had come to work out with him, had called her at their nearby home. Later, following quintuple bypass surgery to treat blocked arteries to his heart, Zuleg met with Miller at Edward Hospital.
“I was very fortunate. This could have happened anywhere and I would have had a different outcome,” said Miller, who is back to work and feeling well. “And Jill, she ended up being my angel. I’m still in shock that this happened and everyone was in the right place at the right time.”
Zuleg, who received the Naperville’s Fire Chief Citizen’s Award for her lifesaving efforts, is thankful she was there to help Miller.
“It means the world to me that those girls get to have their father around and Jim’s wife, Jenny, has her husband,” Zuleg said. “I’m so grateful the AED was there. It worked beautifully and there were people there who were able to help Jim, including me.”
Learn more about cardiac care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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