Shocks on the spot

They told him later that he was a goner, his heart flat-lined. One moment, he was sitting on a stack of pallets at the Target distribution center in Woodland, Calif., talking to his boss. The next, he was on the floor without a pulse.

Dr. Kathy Glatter holds an automatic external defibrillator. The devices have become common sights in airports

Dr. Kathy Glatter holds an automatic external defibrillator. The devices have become common sights in airports

They told him later that he was a goner, his heart flat-lined. One moment, he was sitting on a stack of pallets at the Target distribution center in Woodland, Calif., talking to his boss. The next, he was on the floor without a pulse.

But Tim Joseph, a 52-year-old with no known heart condition, was jolted back from the dead within a few minutes, thanks to a machine that fits in a bright red case the size of a laptop computer.

Automatic external defibrillators, or AEDs, are becoming common in public places such as airports, shopping malls and casinos.

In a cardiac emergency, having this type of device on hand can mean the difference between death or severe brain damage and full recovery, experts say.

In Joseph’s case, Target had sprung for the US$1,200 to keep a defibrillator in the warehouse. And both Joseph and his doctor, Woodland Healthcare cardiologist Dr. Kathy Glatter, credit its use for saving his life late last year.

“If it wasn’t for that machine, I wouldn’t be talking to you,” says Joseph, who was recently cleared to go back to work.

“It’s beyond scary, man.”

So severe was Joseph’s coronary, Glatter says, that it took three “shocks” with the electronic-stimulation pads to revive him.

All told, six to eight minutes elapsed between his cardiac arrest and his heart’s return to rhythmic beating.

A heart attack starts a race against time, Glatter says: “You have 10 minutes, max” before it’s too late to help. The standard of care for the last three decades, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, can only do so much.

“Fewer than five per cent of those who have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest will survive with their brain intact, even if CPR is done correctly,” Glatter says.

“It’s just not good enough. Of course, paramedics are great and can shock you.

“But even if you live near a fire department, there’s a certain time lag. They can’t get there fast enough.”

Glatter, who can recall several stories of lives saved after sudden cardiac arrest, is a vocal proponent of installing AEDs anywhere large groups gather.

She says they are especially needed at health clubs, where intense exercise can stress a damaged heart.

She tells the story of Juan Munoz, a 65-year-old Woodland resident who recently collapsed while playing handball at a health club there. An off-duty nurse, Suzanne Linne, saw Munoz fall, grabbed the AED off the wall and zapped Munoz’s wildly beating heart back to normal.

“By the time they brought Munoz in to me (at the hospital), he says to me through an interpreter, ‘Can I go home now?’ “ Glatter says. “I said, ‘No, you can’t. You just had a cardiac arrest.’ “

Another time Glatter was on call, a 45-year-old man collapsed while lifting weights at a different Woodland health club — one without an AED. Workers performed CPR and called paramedics.

“By the time I got to see him in the ER, he was dead, and his wife’s standing next to me, crying,” Glatter says.

Defibrillators provide the electric jolt that CPR cannot. Think of it like rebooting a computer.

“When the heart muscle doesn’t get oxygen, it causes a buildup of lactic acid, and that makes the electricity in their heart go crazy,” Glatter says.

“We say flat-line, but it’s almost the opposite. The heart beats 300 to 400 times a minute, jiggling like a bag of worms, not squirting blood. It’s electrical chaos.

“What the shock does is stop (that chaos) and enable you to restart it yourself.”

One problem is that while many businesses have AEDs, workers either aren’t trained in using them or don’t think of employing them in an emergency.

In Munoz’s case, health-club workers were administering CPR and not using the AED until Linne entered the club and called for the device.

“The chest compression kept (Munoz) breathing, but there was no pulse,” Linne says. “I had seen before at the club that they had an AED on the wall. I asked for it. It’s really easy to use. It guides you through it.”

An AED literally talks a user through three steps: turning on the machine, placing the pads on the victim’s bare chest and pressing a button when a recorded voice says “shock now.”

“It’s really idiot-proof,” Glatter says.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read