Shawn Beaulne knew an AED and CPR were his best chance at saving the unconscious stranger.
“Do you know CPR?” The woman dashing out of the cycling gym called to Shawn Beaulne, who was walking by. “There’s someone in there having a heart attack.”
Shawn, a special constable with the Brantford Police Service, was at the community centre in Ancaster, Ont., last December to watch his daughter’s hockey game. He was stretching his legs before the puck dropped.
“I’ll give it a try,” he said. Shawn’s job requires him to renew his CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification every three years. He had performed CPR in a crisis before, on his brother Chris in 2009.
Rushing into the gym, he saw John Marechal wedged between the wall and a stationary bicycle. He was convulsing and gasping then stopped breathing.
“Buddy, you’re not going to die on my watch,” Shawn told the unconscious man. He suspected cardiac arrest — the man’s heart had stopped beating and he would die if it was not restarted.
Someone had already grabbed the gym’s AED (automated external defibrillator).
There are 40,000 cardiac arrests in Canada every year and use of CPR and an AED within the first few minutes doubles the chances that the person will survive.
“Within three minutes, that’s the most important time for an AED to be used,” says Mike Hoffman, manager of the national AED program for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
AEDs are smart enough to treat only people who need it. If an unconscious person isn’t actually in cardiac arrest, the machine won’t deliver a shock.
Restarting a heart
Following the instructions on the device, Shawn pulled the straps off the paddles, and placed them on John’s chest. The AED measured his heart’s rhythms, then its display told Shawn to commence CPR. The device gave John’s heart a shock.
CPR and AEDs work hand-in-hand: chest compression keeps blood flowing to the heart, brain and other organs. The AED monitors the heart and when it detects a rhythm, uses an electric shock to get it pumping again.
“Go deeper,” the machine alerted Shawn. He compressed even harder.
When an onlooker said he might break the man’s ribs, Shawn said, “At this point, it doesn’t matter.”
He was right, said the Foundation’s Mike Hoffman. When someone’s heart is stopped, you can’t hurt them by doing chest compressions — you can only help.
[bctt tweet=”There are 40,000 cardiac arrests in Canada each year. That’s one every 12 minutes. ” via=”no”]
After the machine gave a second shock, paramedics arrived and took over. John was whisked to hospital, where he underwent surgery.
Shawn had long understood the importance of AEDs. When his brother suffered cardiac arrest in a cabin in the bush, it took two hours to get him to healthcare professionals. By that time, the paramedic’s AED detected only faint heart activity — thanks mostly to the two hours of CPR Shawn performed — and the 37-year-old died soon after.
More AEDs mean more lives saved
Shawn has contemplated getting his own AED and leaving it in his car. He admits that’s extreme. But his cousin runs a gym in Brantford and didn’t have one. “Are you nuts?” Shawn asked the small business owner. He got one.
Thanks to rapid treatment with both CPR and an AED, John Marechal recovered. He’s healthy and has become an avid cyclist. In fact, the two strangers are now good friends and rode together in the ZOLL Paramedic Challenge at the Becel Heart and Stroke Ride for Heart last spring.
“We had a fantastic time,” recalls Shawn. “It was very emotional. It’s so great to see John doing what he’s doing now.”
About 85 per cent of cardiac arrests happen in homes or public places. The Heart and Stroke Foundation works with partners to increase the number of AEDs in public places across Canada.
One such partner is ZOLL Medical Corp. Its support and in-kind donations over the past five years have allowed the Foundation to place close to 300 AEDs and train thousands in Hands-only CPR* and in using the devices. ZOLL is committed to equipping communities and paramedic groups with the resources they need to save lives and keep our communities safe.
* Hands-only is a servicemark of the American Heart Association Inc., used under license.