Sandy Meggert collapsed onto the YMCA handball court. While he lay unconscious on the floor, the color of his face quickly turned a pallid blue. He had no pulse.
Every Christmas, Meggert leaves his home in Arlington Heights, Ill., to enjoy the Florida sunshine. He had just finished four games of handball Monday, Jan. 25, at the YMCA Frank G. Berlin branch, when another group called for a fill-in. Thinking he could handle a fifth game, the 70-year-old gave it a shot. About halfway through, a sudden dizziness set in, and Meggert blacked out. He was suffering from cardiac arrest.
YMCA staff members Mark Stephens, Mike Stack, Dave Green and Rolando Fernandez came to his rescue with the facility’s HeartStart automated external defibrillator (AED). Although they had undergone simulated training in CPR and AED, none of the men had ever needed to revive someone through shock.
“We got notified someone was down,” said Stack, membership director. “Mark Stephens grabbed the AED, called 911 and sent for the lifeguard. The guy was blue, not breathing and unconscious. The machine analyzed the rhythm and it said to press the shock button. The guy jumped just like you see on TV.”
Fernandez and Stack immediately went into CPR mode, giving chest compressions and rescue breaths. The AED continued to analyze, but after three sets, Fernandez felt Meggert’s chest fill with air, signaling that he had started breathing on his own.
By the time the emergency-response team arrived, nine minutes had passed.
“I woke up in the ambulance,” Meggert said. “They were yelling at me, saying, ‘Sandy, Sandy — stay with us! Keep your eyes open!’”
If a person goes into cardiac arrest, they usually have four-to-six minutes to restore normal heart rhythm before permanent damage occurs. For every minute a person is down, the chance for damage increases by 7 to 10%.
“The key is really to avoid brain damage,” said Leslie Roberts, president of Altra Medical, who supplied the FRx AED to the YMCA. “If 10 minutes pass, they probably aren’t going to make it. The time and speed at which these guys moved is unreal.”
The AED used on Meggert includes a feature called Quick Shock. It was charged and ready to deliver the shock 14 seconds after the AED began analyzing.
Roberts presented Stack, Green and Fernandez with a “Heart Saver” award Feb. 16, at a YMCA board meeting.
Each year, 3,000 people die of sudden cardiac arrest, which happens due to ventricular fibrillation — an electrical problem with the heart. Often, there are no warning signs.
Meggert spent five days in the hospital, but his doctor said because of the timing, people and equipment, everything to save his life was in place. He had no permanent heart or brain damage.
And the experience didn’t damage his enthusiasm for his recreational activities, either.
“I’m glad to be here,” Meggert said. “I’ve got a handball court reserved for Wednesday at 9.”
IF YOU GO
What: CPR training course for ages 16 and older
Where: Frank G. Berlin Branch YMCA, 1075 Euclid Ave.
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20
Cost: $35 (includes book and adult, child and infant CPR certifications)
Information: Call 955-8194, Ext. 122