By Katie Fallon
One local country club member’s sudden cardiac arrest now has the City of Sandy Springs reinforcing its efforts in the education of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED).
Last month, a Dunwoody Country Club founding member was preparing to use a Nautilus machine in the facility’s gym when he suddenly collapsed. Because of the quick actions of trainers Scott Shetler and Svetlana Correa, Johnson was kept alive with the use of an AED and CPR.
Shetler said everything happened quite fast. As Johnson was going to sit down on the exercise machine, he collapsed between the seat and the stack of weights. While Correa and the intern checked Johnson’s vital signs, Shetler called 911 and grabbed the gym’s AED off the wall. At first, he said things did not look good.
“He wasn’t responsive,” Shetler said of Johnson. “He was taking some very labored, struggled breaths.”
Shetler said in the club’s annual round of CPR and AED training, he and his fellow staffers are taught to immediately place the AED’s shock pads on the patient to determine if they have a shockable rhythm. Like an episode of ER, each level of response went off like a well-oiled machine.
“We shocked him and started doing CPR and got through about 4 rounds of CPR before the color returned to his face,” Shetler said. “Then we put the oxygen on him and he started inhaling that really deep.”
The club’s wellness director said it only took about five minutes before the city’s fire and police personnel arrived, a response time he called “awesome.”
Indeed, the Medical Director of the city’s Fire and Rescue Department Dr. Ian Greenwald said what happened at the Dunwoody Country Club, although a rare occurrence, is a prime example of how AED availability and education can mean the difference between life and death.
“This event highlights several things,” said Greenwald. “First, bystander CPR saves lives. Second, having an AED on site saves lives. Third, having an internal emergency activation plan for businesses is crucial…understanding what to do in an emergency, having people trained how to respond, how to access the 911 system and what to do before the professional responders get there.”
Greenwald said Johnson went into cardiac arrhythmia and that his heart actually stopped beating. He said the use of the AED is almost certainly what saved the life of Johnson, who was initially taken to nearby St. Joseph’s Hospital and is now recovering at home.
“It was the difference between life and death,” Greenwald said. “No AED? He probably would have died. With an AED? He’ll probably be fine.”
Fire Chief Jack McElfish said that because of the neighborhood presence of St. Joseph’s, a nationally recognized cardiac care hospital, Sandy Springs is an ideal community in which to have a heart attack, if such a place exists.
“If you were a lot of places other than Sandy Springs at that time, this would not have had the same result,” he said. “We’ve got a world-class cardiac care center in our backyard.”
Because the AED at the country club wasn’t placed by the city, Greenwald said the organization should be commended for not only making the life-saving devices available in high traffic areas, but also for training their staff to operate them.
“The Dunwoody Country Club has been very diligent in training their personnel annually, doing CPR refreshers and working with their staff on what to do when there’s an emergency,” Greenwald said. “They really deserve a ton of credit.”
The club’s general manager Jon Knobbe said, “The board has been very supportive of funding training and equipment. They haven’t hesitated at all in providing the oxygen tanks and the AED’s.”AED’s have been placed in high activity areas such as pool, tennis courts, golf course, gym and golf shop.
Johnson’s cardiac episode marks the first known time an AED has been used to save someone’s life since the city began its educational efforts on the benefits of AED and CPR education.
Greenwald said the city is continuing its educational efforts because they want further penetrate the community with teaching CPR, knowing what to do in an emergency and having access to AED’s in crowded locales. The city is also receiving assistance from the American Heart Association (AHA), which is donating five new defibrillators and wall-mounting units. The Recreation and Parks Department has also purchased a number of AED’s to place in its facilities.
Within the city organization, Greenwald said 41 City Hall staff alone recently trained in CPR and AED use. The goal is to get 100 percent of the staff trained.
“We’re going to continue to collaborate with the AHA,” Greenwald said. “We have an initiative to expand CPR and AED education into the high schools so students who are graduating will be familiar with CPR and know how to use AED’s.”
In addition, Greenwald said he hopes the training sessions will also be given area civic associations, churches and synagogues and homeowner’s associations.
Greenwald said it is possible the city could draft ordinances that would require businesses of a certain size to have an AED on-site. Such an ordinance is on the books with Fulton County, but was never enforced, he said.
“Our goal is not to focus on enforcement as much as work with the community and show them what can happen if you have the right piece of equipment and properly trained people on the scene,” Greenwald said.
For more information on the city’s CPR and AED training sessions, call 770-730-5600 or visit www.sandyspringsga.org.