clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A life saved: more than luck?

You might say it was lucky two cardiologists were nearby when Luis Chavez collapsed on the floor of the Foundry Grill two weeks ago.

You could say it was fortuitous that employees at the Sundance resort had just been trained on a new and easy-to-use portable defibrillator.Chavez won't agree, however.

Although he readily admits he feels lucky to be alive, the 70-year-old musician believes it was more than just luck that put a series of people and equipment into just the right place at just the right time on the night his heart stopped beating.

"It can't be luck to have two cardiologists right in front of me and then this guy shows up with a defibrillator they just happened to have on loan. It just can't be luck that in the hospital was a Korean specialist - at night - who could implant a new computer system in my chest.

"The help, they were chosen to be there," said Chavez.

Chavez, a retired mechanical engineer who is also a Cuban refugee and an Orem resident, was meeting restaurant managers to demonstrate his prowess on a musical keyboard in the hopes of getting work at the resort.

He was just bringing his electronic equipment in through the doorway when he went into sudden cardiac arrest and fell, striking his head. He wasn't breathing and his heart stopped beating.

The two cardiologists, who were dining in the restaurant at the time, immediately started CPR efforts, but Chavez didn't respond.

Kenneth Johnson and Brian Martin, both resort employees who had just been introduced to the operation of the Heartstream ForeRunner portable defibrillator, arrived within minutes and shocked Chavez three times, bringing his heart back into rhythm and stabilizing him. An ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later.

Without Johnson and Martin and the automatic device, Chavez is sure he would have died.

Ralph Derico, who loaned the ForeRunner to the Sundance medical staff from Orem's Public Safety Department, said the idea behind the defibrillator distribution is to have it available on site in an emergency.

Because of the resort's location up Provo Canyon, Sundance management has recognized the fact that trained medical help is 20-30 minutes away and consequently set up a program one year ago that puts trained employees on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Each minute a patient waits reduces his or her chances for survival by 10 percent, said Derico.

Chavez was treated by Johnson and Martin within four minutes of his attack, said Corey Child, safety director for Sundance. "My staff stepped up to the plate."

He is the first life to be saved by the defibrillator in use, said Derico, although 16 units have been in Utah County public safety cars for about six months.

The ForeRunners, which sell for about $3,000 apiece, are designed to be simple to use but foolproof. If a patient does not require electrical shock, the machine will not allow it.

The ForeRunner dictates instructions through voice commands and provides visual readouts to support its instructions. Derico is attempting to get statewide permission to use the portable units under the Good Samaritan law.

Currently the only people who can administer a shock procedure on the heart are trained and licensed medical personnel.

Derico said the automatic devices are so basic and simple that training really isn't necessary except to build up a person's confidence.

"They are really fail-safe along with being easy to operate," he said.