Defibrillator gives Wash. man another chance

Rapid intervention by a volunteer FF and a trainer at the gym had the man breathing by the time EMS arrived

By Dave Gallagher
The Bellingham Herald

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Marc Shaner had no idea he was going to have a heart attack until he collapsed after exercising at an athletic club. A big reason he is able to talk about the experience today is because a local business was prepared for the possibility.

Shaner, who turned 79 on Aug. 7, had just finished a game of pickleball at Bellingham Athletic Club, 4191 Meridian St., on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

He was expected to stay on the court because he and his partner had won the match, but he started feeling a little woozy and decided to rest. The next thing he remembers is waking up at St. Joseph hospital, having survived a small heart attack that led to cardiac arrest. He was later told he had been clinically dead for about four minutes.

Shaner also learned he may not have survived had it not been for the quick reactions of others and the use of the club’s automated external defibrillator. Shaner’s wife, Mary, saw him collapse and immediately shouted to call 911. Mike Locke, a trainer at the club, and Darryl Kvistad, a BAC member and a Skagit County volunteer firefighter, came over to help. Kvistad did chest compressions and both men set up and used the AED. By the time emergency medical services arrived within five minutes of the call, Marc Shaner was breathing.

After a couple of nights in the hospital, Shaner returned home. This week he was planning to check in with his doctor to find out when he can start playing pickleball again.

“Thank God they had a defibrillator,” Mary Shaner said, “or he wouldn’t be here now.”

There is no requirement in Washington state to have AEDs in the standard workplace, but they are something more businesses and other organizations have considered installing. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, studies indicate that immediately using an AED can result in up to 60 percent survival one year after a sudden cardiac arrest, while waiting for the arrival of EMS personnel results in a 5 percent to 7 percent survival rate.

If an employer decides to put in an AED system, employee training and maintenance of the equipment should take place, said John Kiely, safety and health technical specialist at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. As the technology has become more available and companies see its benefits, the agency has received more questions about its use.

Bellingham Athletic Club was one of the first local businesses to buy an AED system, purchasing it in 2001 for $5,000, according to its owner, Cathy Buckley.

Buckley was an early fan of the system and would have bought them when she first became owner of BAC in 1997, but the price for the system at that time was $10,000.

“At $10,000 I just couldn’t afford it,” Buckley said. “So I made a promise to myself that when it got under $5,000 I would buy it.”

Today systems are going for around $1,500, and Buckley believes more local businesses should consider getting them.

“I know it’s a tough go in the economy right now, but for me it was a look-in-the-mirror situation,” Buckley said. “I wanted to make sure I had done what I could.”

In Shaner’s case, the AED system was 30 feet away. Buckley said once the machine was in place and turned on, it advised giving a shock to Shaner. In its second analysis it advised giving CPR. In the third analysis, it said to stop CPR because Shaner was breathing again.

“It is truly an amazing machine,” Buckley said, noting that the steps are easy to follow once it is turned on.

Kvistad agreed that AEDs are worthwhile and is seeing them in other places where large gatherings of people take place, such as schools. In his experience every cardiac arrest event is different, but in many instances the AED can make a big difference, he said.

Buckley’s decision to purchase the machine was fortuitous for one other family. BAC had the system installed in October 2001; two months later it was used on Migo Biciunas, who went into cardiac arrest after playing racquetball. The AED was used and he survived the incident. He is still playing racquetball at BAC. Buckley said she recently received flowers and a bear hug from his daughter telling her how much the family appreciates the fact the equipment was there 15 years ago.

“That alone makes the $5,000 purchase worthwhile,” Buckley said.

Copyright 2016 The Bellingham Herald

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