Kim shares the story of losing her son to Sudden Cardiac Arrest and her advice to promote change.
In 2012, Brock collapsed suddenly at volleyball practice due to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). He needed immediate CPR and treatment from an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Unfortunately, Brock did not receive CPR until 5 minutes later and the nearby AED was not used. He received defibrillation from an AED 13 minutes after collapsing, which was too late to save his life.
Brock’s story highlights the importance of not only immediate action but also how screening and increased awareness of heart problems can save lives in the young and old alike. Watch Brock’s mom, Kim, share their story and offer powerful insight on how to improve cardiac arrest survival.
In this video you’ll learn…
- How Brock had indications of an irregular heart rhythm a year earlier
- What Kim has done to improve SCA response and survival
- How schools are critical for training future rescuers
- (00:00) Brock suffers Sudden Cardiac Arrest
- (01:51) His underlying heart condition was discovered
- (04:09) CPR and AED education in schools
- (06:40) Kim enacts meaningful dispatch protocols for SCA response
- (08:43) How AEDs need to be improved
So my name is Kim Ruether. I am an xray tech, a farm wife, and a mother of four now three. I am from Northern Alberta and I have been very fortunate to come and be a part of this group of lifesavers. So the reason I’m involved with anything heart-related is because on May 22nd, 2012 I got home late from work and I was a total bag to my oldest son because he got a bad math mark. And so we, I berated him and he had the first volleyball practice of the season schedule that night. And so he left and when he left he said, are you sure you don’t want to come along with me mom? And I said, no Brock, and you better get that math mark up or it was going to be the last practice you ever go to. And then about half an hour later, one of the teachers called me from the school and said that he had collapsed and he wasn’t breathing normally. And so I thought it was related to his new skateboarding injury and that he maybe had fainted or something. And so I went into town and when the ambulance came into the emergency department, I started taking pictures thinking that they were going to be great blackmail photos for his wedding and he was going to think this was really cool. And then the doctor came over and said, I’m sorry, but we aren’t going to be able to save your son.
And I was just like, how does a 16-year-old boy just collapse and die on a gym floor? And so then I started doing research and I discovered that he had had an abnormal ECG a year prior with the drug and alcohol awareness program. And for some crazy reason, he was selected to be the kid that was hooked up to the ECG and it was abnormal. And so ironically, the same teacher that performed breaths on him the night that he collapsed was at that awareness event. And when they said that his ECG was abnormal, she made them take the leads off his chest and then reattach them. And it was still really abnormal. So they just said it must be that the equipment is faulty. So they sent him home with his little tracing and he folded it up and put it in his secret box of treasures. And then we found it actually a year after he died and found out that he had actually had an abnormal ECG that year before he had died. So, you know, there’s all these things that led up to the event and it was very tough.
So since Brock’s death, I requested his 911 dispatch call and reviewed it over and over and I could see that there were deficiencies in our system. So this wasn’t about blame. Nobody did anything wrong. And well, except me as a mother, I think, because he had stood in our kitchen two weeks before he died complaining of chest pain and I was like, Oh, you’re fine. Yeah, everybody has chest pain. But if he would have been 45 or 50 or 60, I would have hauled his ass to the hospital so fast because that’s what we do with people that are older. We get them checked out. But you never assume that with a kid it’s cardiac arrest. I think that after his death and after his reviewing the 911 call, I could see that there were detrimental breaks in our system, right from the awareness.
In the schools, we should be training kids from kindergarten all the way up to play with AED trainers so that they know what they’re like, they know how to use them, they know how to do compressions, they know how to do breaths so that by the time they reach graduation, we have expertly performed BLS from our citizens, from our students, right from right from all the way through school. So that you have a citizenry or a society of trained responders because sudden cardiac arrest is a huge issue. And our survival rates are frankly horrible. So if we could have our students in our bystanders trained, not just our paramedics and EMS people or our hospital staff, but all of our people trained, I think that is where we will see the biggest improvement in sudden cardiac arrest survival rates. So I think that the biggest area of improvement right now is being focused on some of the professionals.
Whereas I think that getting into schools and having our kids really trained is going to be huge because when my son died, he was surrounded. Brock was surrounded by a whole group of grade 10 boys who were strong and could have done great CPR. And there was an AED right at the gym doors. But he didn’t get CPR for five minutes. And then he’d never got a shock until 13 minutes after. So you go from this boy who had like a 95% chance of survival to 0% chance in 10 minutes. And I think that’s where we’re failing. Like schools, it’s hard because they all always have rotating staff and they always have other priorities that come to the forefront. So his school made a lot of changes around getting more training. But I think instead of just training teachers and coaches, we’re missing our opportunity with training other kids. So there should be medical emergency kits in every school that have AEDs, EpiPens, so that when you have critical injuries at a school, you have a kit that people can just run and have drills so that they know exactly what to do. And not just the teachers but also the students. So that you have that awareness built over years of practice.
Yeah. So there have been successes. So after Brock died, I sent a letter to the international academies of emergency dispatch along with some help from the Alberta health services EMS team. And they reviewed his call and put in changes and amendments to the dispatch protocol. So after Brock’s death, they initiated Brock’s law with the dispatch protocol. So that recognition of AEDs and rapid response and then they check back routinely to see if an AED is available so that they can have responders use the available AED right away and also to recognize the agonal respirations, which is super important so that you get a faster response and they start the BLS process quicker to save those lives.
I think that what we need to be looking at is heart screening. I think that prevention of these arrests before they ever happen is going to be key. Having communities get on board with public health nurses or different organizations who are interested in doing screening is huge and I think initiating the conversation around getting schools to adopt medical emergency drills and more CPR, BLS training for kids is huge. Having your community aware of the incidence of cardiac arrest because there’s a lot of people that don’t understand the numbers that are involved with cardiac arrest and how prevalent that is in our societies and the huge impact. The survival rates could double or triple with use of BLS and AED. So if we could impact our communities through that awareness, I think that’s where we’re going to see the most change.
Oh, where do I start? So, boy, there are so many changes that need to need to come. I think that some of the things that need to change is our citizenry is terrified of using AEDs. There’s been so many myths around the use of AEDs injuring people. And one of the things that I do is I go into schools, I put the actual pads on my chest and I press the shock button and, and show people that there is absolutely nothing scary about an AED. And it’ll only shock if you need the shock. And I think that going in and having kids like the kids will come and they’ll put the pads on my chest and having teachers, kids, everybody really get involved with that and take the fear away from the response and making a transparent and failure-free society so that we’re not blaming people if somebody dies so that we can talk openly about mistakes that were made. Because it’s only through really taking the fear of failure and that blame out of the picture that we can look openly at at death events and say, you know what? We tried the best we could with what we knew at the time and now that we know better, we can do better.
I think one of the questions that we’re not asking is how do we marry the education silo and the health silo? How do we build that into a seamless team of educators and health providers so that we can have both together moving forward in ways to save lives. So we have money going into education. We have money going into health, but we don’t really have the, the health and education people working together as a team to say, okay, how are we going to make this a really proactive group to make change and save these young lives? Because we’re losing way too many of our kids to cardiac arrest events that are totally preventable and could have really positive outcomes instead of tragedies.