Heart attack victim Herbert Rotchford knows that he wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for the quick action of bystanders applying a shock from an automatic external defibrillator.
Rotchford, 75, and his wife Judith had just arrived at the Havelock Senior Center to play Bingo on Feb. 1 when he passed out.
It soon became apparent that Rotchford was having a heart attack and 911 was called.
Their friend, Irene Hess, began CPR, then used a portable automatic external defibrillator to apply an electrical shock to Rotchford as he lay on the floor.
"She put one patch on and I put one patch on and we waited for the machine to say what to do," Judith Rotchford said. "The machine said shock once and she pushed the button. She continued CPR until the rescue guys got here."
The reaction to the shock was immediate.
"They said that when they shocked me, I raised right up off the floor," Herbert Rotchford said.
Jason Morand, a firefighter/paramedic with the Havelock Fire and Rescue Department, responded to the call.
"We pretty much found him lying on the floor with a bystander doing CPR," he said. "He didn’t have a pulse. We took over CPR. We put him on the monitor, got him on the ambulance. That’s when we started doing all the other interventions. That one time was the only time he was shocked. I’m 100 percent sure that’s what saved his life."
It’s the second time that the wall-mounted box has been brought out to save a life at the senior center. Other AEDs are kept at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center and the Havelock Recreation Department. Eight units were recently placed in Havelock Police Department patrol cars.
The paramedics say that the initial minutes following a heart attack are crucial. If the victim doesn’t get oxygen, they begin to die.
"All your organs start shutting down, one by one," Morand said. "You start losing oxygen to your brain so you develop brain damage. Your heart tissue starts dying off."
Morand and fellow firefighter/paramedic Scott Dorsett were the first to arrive and found Hess performing CPR on the victim.
"He wasn’t in the best shape. I’m really glad that we have the AEDs in the city. That saved his life," Dorsett said. "At the fire and rescue department, we’re just so excited that we can be involved with that because it’s a little bit more of an outreach. We get to interact with people and train them with the AEDs. We just placed AEDs in most of the cop cars and trained the police officers how to use them. We’re just so excited to be more involved in emergency medicine in the community."
Studies have shown that sooner defibrillation in this type of instance is key to saving someone’s life.
"You want early intervention because oxygen levels in the bloodstream are still high, so if we had maybe been here 10 minutes later and he hadn’t been defibrillated, we would have to have done CPR and put oxygen back into his bloodstream to actually have a chance at reviving his heart," Dorsett said. "The fact that it happened right there so soon increased his chances of survival tenfold. That’s why you see AEDs around in the community and that’s why the Havelock Fire Department is pushing to have AEDs in the community. It’s so vital to have that early defibrillation in these types of instances."
Wayne Lee, another responding paramedic, said the defibrillation is the key.
"Most of the time they don’t survive it. To have him walk out is amazing," he said. "That’s the only way you’re going to make the heart do what it needs to do to get back in rhythm is to defibrillate it. It’s really fortunate that Mrs. Hess was here to be able to use that device and that we could follow up behind here to make sure that he made it up to the hospital."
Herbert Rotchford said he appreciated everyone's effort to save his life.
"By doing CPR, they forced my lungs to breathe and put air into my brain. Fortunately with the shock, the CPR, I’ve survived and I’m fully functional," he said. "I could have been a vegetable, literally. The first time I came back I thanked everybody here, because I literally died and these guys and Mrs. Hess brought me back. I’m thankful for it. I was fortunate."