In honor of National CPR/AED Awareness Week, we'd like to share a story with you, and then we need you to take action. Is that a fair trade? We'll let you be the judge.
|Chris Knight works today at the American Red Cross Amarillo chapter.|
Meet Chris Knight. Chris spent 18 years working in radio stations across the U.S. before settling permanently in Amarillo, TX where he worked in radio and television.
In 2008, he visited Naperville, Illinois for a relative's wedding. "It was August 9, 2008 at 10:30 on a Saturday morning. I was outside the Marriott hotel with my wife in the lobby. That's when I dropped dead. There was no warning, whatsoever. I face planted and my glasses smashed against the ground."
Luckily for Chris, a policewoman was around the corner and responded in less than three minutes. The officer also had an AED (automated external defibrillator), which applies electric therapy to stop cardiac arrhythmias.
"I had sudden cardiac arrest. The policewoman used the AED to administer a shock, but the first time I didn't respond. Then she shocked me again with the AED and my heart started beating."
Not only was a nearby policewoman prepared with a life-saving AED, but also an unidentified man stepped in to help as soon as Chris fell and performed CPR for almost seven minutes. “The man must have been well trained in CPR because he did it right – my whole chest and ribs were cracked The ambulance arrived. They took me to Edwards Hospital in Naperville, one of the top cardiac hospitals in the country. My heart stopped in the ambulance and they shocked me again. Then my heart stopped when we got to the hospital and they revived me. And then on the table, my heart stopped twice more. I died five times, and each time they brought me back."
The hospital called Dr. Mark Duerinck, a local cardiologist who was in downtown Chicago teaching a cardiology class. "He knew immediately what happened to me and told the hospital staff to wait for him to arrive before treating me." Chris had a double, right-sided event and all of his platelets exploded.
He spent the next seven days in a coma. "At one time, I had 17 machines keeping me alive. I couldn't breath on my own. They also put me into a thermal blanket and lowered my body temperature to 38 degrees so doctors could examine me more closely to understand what was wrong."
Chris spent 30 days in the hospital. During his stay, he had pneumonia twice, three full blood transfusions and a defibrillator and pacemaker were implanted in him.
Making Lifestyle Changes After Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Experiencing sudden cardiac arrest took a physical and emotional toll on Chris as well as his family and friends.
"After the incident, I lost 35 pounds. I started therapy two weeks after getting home and it took me four months to roll over in bed. It took about a year to feel half-way decent again."
Chris took dramatic steps to improve his health and lifestyle. "Before sudden cardiac arrest, I felt like I was six feet tall and bullet proof. But after the incident, it's like—not really. My whole perspective is different now."
"I've never had another cigarette. I rarely drink. I quit eating terribly. I was the poster boy for fast food restaurants, and now I exercise nearly every day. You wouldn't even know I died five times by looking at me."
He is fortunate appreciative of for the police and medical staff who saved his life as well as the family and friends who prayed for him during his recovery. "The support I received was absolutely amazing; I was incredibly lucky to be where I was when this happened to me, and I am grateful to all of the people who supported my recovery."
Family members and friends also have to deal with the effects of sudden cardiac arrests. "The incident was extremely hard on my wife. To see your spouse walking one minute and drop dead the next - I can't imagine. No one dies and comes back."
Becoming a Health Advocate
According to the Mayo Clinic, "sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) usually results from an electrical disturbance in your heart that disrupts its pumping action, stopping blood flow to the rest of your body."
Following sudden cardiac arrest, Chris transitioned from a career in radio and television to a position with the Red Cross as the Executive Director in the Panhandle Area.
"I'm very passionate about safety, training and the mission of the Red Cross. I still get freaked out about what happened to me. I still go back to the question - why am I here? I want to help prepare my community with AEDs and life-saving training."
The American Red Cross, through Health and Safety Services, offers CPR and AED training. Chris is always happy to explain that the machine is one of the reasons he is here today. He also speaks to civic groups about the American Red Cross and AEDs.
Chris also speaks to a therapy group for people who have had open heart surgery. "We talk about what people are going through. Empathy and listening is important because the recovery and therapy process is challenging."
Your Turn: How to Take Action
Chris recommends you take the following steps in order to be prepared for health emergencies:
• Learn more & be prepared: Sign up for a CPR/AED class and learn hands-only CPR from this Red Cross video. Know where AEDs are at your office, gym, church and more. Help for Sudden Cardiac Arrest often comes from bystanders.
• Listen to your body: "Don't brush aside funny feelings or if you're not well. I felt completely fine and had great blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But I smoked, I was diabetic and had a lot of stress. Don't put off talking to your doctor about not feeling well."
• Enjoy every day: "Every day is a new day. Enjoy it. Treat people well and don't take what you have for granted. I know I did. Now I try not to."
Please share with your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.
To sign up for an American Red Cross CPR, First Aid and AED course, go to redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.