On January 11, 2003, my daughters and I traveled to Webster, NY, to cheer Bethany on as she participated in the Gold Junior Olympics for USA Swim. I recall entering the Webster Aquatic Center and taking Bethany to the locker room, only to discover that I had left her deck chair in the car. I retrieved it and we went to sit in the stands while the morning session finished. I was supposed to be a lane timer for the afternoon session. I vaguely recall speaking to some friends. I was in no pain and had no idea of what was about to transpire. The next 24 hours remain a complete blank.
Sometime in late February, I received a letter from one of the coaches who was there on that fateful day. The following is an excerpt from his letter. "When word got down to the deck that something was wrong, some coaches and a handful of lifeguards were coming up the stairs thinking we were responding to someone falling. When we got there people had already begun CPR on you. We sent one of the lifeguards downstairs after the AED. In the meantime, we were fighting to get you on a backboard so you wouldn't be conducting across the metal benches. When the guard came back with the unit we rigged it to you, it ran its self-diagnosis, and advised us to shock. I shocked you once, at which time you began to show signs of respiration. The machine kept advising us to shock you again, but you were showing a sign of breathing... it's basically the situation that doesn't happen, so we felt it was best to wait until the cardiac unit got there or until you crashed again to deliver another shock.
"ALS showed up right as you crashed the second time and shocked you several more times. They put an airway in your mouth and began ventilating you with oxygen through a bag-valve mask before transporting you down the back steps and out to the ambulance, at which time you were showing signs of consciousness."
I awoke the next afternoon in the emergency room of Rochester General Hospital. After ensuring there was no blockage, heart disease, or stroke an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) was implanted in my chest. I was able to go home five days after the SCA event.
New York State had mandated December 1, 2002, for AED compliance in all public schools. The lifeguards at the Aquatic Center had been trained on the devices only two weeks prior. I am incredibly fortunate to have been surrounded by so many guardian angels on that day back in January. Without each of them, and the AED, I would not be here today.
The same letter included the following comment, which best summarizes my response to doubters of the cost-effectiveness of AED's. "After a near-drowning a few years back, I had been making a push to get AED units at my beach on Long Island and have been met with some flack ever since their purchase last year as to their necessity. For a while I started to believe that maybe I had been a little over-cautious in demanding them. After what happened at Webster though, it's wiped any doubt from my mind, and reinforced the fact that you just never know when."