A Matter of Life or Death

Enrique was my hiking buddy.  We met in the Sierra Club’s outings leader training class and went on to lead many hikes together for children and teens through the club’s Inner City Outings program.

He was a big teddy-bear-like man who loved introducing city children to photography and the wonders of the wild places that surround Los Angeles.  About the same age as my son, mid to late 40s, he was a bit overweight, but worked out regularly.

We usually tried to set a moderate pace for the hikes, but often found the children tired long before we were. Except once.  We hiked with a high school group that was only interested in rushing up and down the hills, leaving us in the dust. We later found out that they and their teachers were training for the LA marathon.

I don’t hike with Enrique any more.  One afternoon at a gym in Hollywood, he collapsed and died in full cardiac arrest after exercising.

David, a close family friend and an avid runner, was working out recently on a gym treadmill because the weather and trail conditions where he lives were not right for outdoor running that day.  As he finished his run and reached for the sanitizer spray, he also collapsed in full cardiac arrest.

Today, he is recovering in a university hospital where everyone is describing his survival as a “miracle”. David was fortunate to collapse when others were present and they were able to take measures that added greatly to his chances for survival. He has received the best possible medical care, and is now on the road to recovery.

Why were the outcomes for these two people so different?  Three simple letters tell the tale: AED. You may have noticed these letters posted in public places and wondered what they were.  You need to know.  You also need to know how to use one if needed and how to do CPR if an AED is not available or indicates that CPR is the better choice.

An AED can be bought for less than $1500 new. If your workplace, gym, or other facility doesn’t have one, work to get one installed. If you live in a neighborhood where emergency medical assistance will take more than a few minutes to arrive, suggest to your neighborhood association that a conveniently located AED and training for residents might be a good investment.

Studies  have shown a dramatic difference in survival rates where the local population has a higher rate of CPR and AED training. Classes  in CPR and how to use an AED are inexpensive. They are offered all over the USA by both the American Red Cross  and the American Heart Association   If you take a class, be sure it is one that includes both the CPR and AED training.

Don’t wait to get trained. It really is a matter of life or death.

Enjoying our last hike together with the ICO kids. That is "Enrique" stretched out, relaxing in front. I am in the red shirt on the back left side, Ed is in the back center in the grey stocking cap.

(Note: the names of the two victims have been changed to protect their friends and family)


4 responses to “A Matter of Life or Death

  1. Thanks. Good information. As one who regularly uses the treadmill at the gym, I have noticed AED installations and from my early training with the gym professionals I know they are all on top of CPR & emergency medical training. Fortunately I don’t have the weight problem nor do I have a background that suggests hidden heart disease. Nevertheless, I stop in regularly for BP checks and am a regular with annual physicals. I am also not bashful about calling the MD if something doesn’t feel right. The other big improvement for me is diet. Always good to hear from you guys- I’d picked out the picture before you gave clues.
    With no plans to be away this summer I hope we get to Pray at a time convenient for you. We do have a few houseguest dates, but we’re mostly free.
    Family is good. Best wishes to all. Bryce

  2. Yamandu Ploskonka

    Great post. I update my CPR/etc training any chance I have, wishing very well never to use it – as things are, I did once control an arterial bleeding incident a Native kid had out there in the Andes, we got him to a doctor within a few hours, and I did use a torniquet, something in our EMS covered part of the world we are told never to…
    Anyway, just one reservation: you say “An AED can be bought … new”. It looks as if people could get those “used”, which maybe is so, but which I wouldn’t, even though I would reuse pretty much anything else in the universe. IMHO the electronics on those things are improving all the time (and the price coming down, my first AED training was for a $4.500 model). AED training used to be complex – now it’s way simpler, because new models take more of the fool out of it. Some models actually are not meant to be re-used. Unless the provenance would assure it is wholly OK, I’d go for a new one.

  3. Yes, new is definitely the way to go! They are always making improvements and any savings would be very small if you tried to buy a used one.

  4. Great Post! I’m not sure that my spouse’s office has one (a small branch of a multi-national financial firm) but they should and I’ll check. It’s a great reminder. Thanks, Caryl. Nancie:)

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