Wash U faculty member survives a heart attack with help from his colleagues, who were recently trained in CPR and AED

A Washington University faculty member received help from his coworkers when he suffered a heart attack at work. The coworkers’ recent CPR and AED training prepared them to act quickly — and effectively.

The heart attack came when Rick least expected it. At 51, he was healthy and active, routinely putting in both cardio and weight training at the gym and planning hiking trips with friends. A recent stress test declared his heart in top shape. But one May morning, Rick, a faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis, experienced a “widow maker,” an unexpected, total blockage of a cardiac artery. 

That morning, Rick went to the gym for a routine workout. Afterward, he recalls pausing to log his workout time and weights, but he doesn’t remember the walk back to his office.

“I stopped to talk to my graduate student when my eyes rolled into the back of my head, I began to collapse, my knees buckled, and I fell to the floor,” he said.

They had trained for an emergency right in time

Just a few months prior, Rick and his colleagues underwent a course with CPR Plus, receiving both CPR and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training. Their skills were put to the test that day when Rick’s student began yelling for help. Colleagues came running. They began doing CPR within two minutes of his collapse, and within five minutes, a team of five individuals, all of whom had attended the course, were contributing to keep him alive.

When the paramedics arrived, they restored Rick’s cardiac rhythm and shuttled him to the nearest hospital. A cardiologist inserted two stents, expanding the blood flow in his blocked artery. Just two days later, Rick was out of the hospital and attending his graduate student’s commencement ceremony. And just a few weeks later, he wrote that same student a recommendation for medical school, complimenting his poised demeanor during a medical crisis.

“Everyone who helped me during my heart attack had been in that class,” Rick said. “It does get you thinking about things. The way it happened, it so easily could have gone another way.” 

The time between a cardiac episode and the restoration of cardiac rhythm is critical to recovery. Because Rick’s colleagues had prepared for an emergency situation, they saved his life.

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