Steve, a Grateful Cardiac Arrest Survivor
Steve was playing softball with his buddies when his heart stopped and he collapsed due to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). While his friends did their best to respond, fortunately, there was a nurse and EMT nearby picking their children up from school.
Without their quick action, and the help of a police officer carrying an AED defibrillator, Steve would likely have not survived.
Steve has dedicated his life to educating others about SCA and has taught over 10,000 people CPR since his cardiac arrest! Steve has also been very active in non-profit organizations that promote SCA and AED/defibrillator awareness.
In this video you’ll learn…
- What Steve remembers about his Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)
- Why Steve happened to be in the right place at the right time
- What Steve “felt” when he was defibrillated
- What Steve does to try to save more lives
- (01:41) Nurse and EMT come to help
- (03:10) Steve returns home two days later
- (06:43) What Steve has learned since his SCA
- (10:40) Steve and AED laws
- Parent Heart Watch
- Louis Acompora Foundation
- Steve’s article on AED Risk and Liability: “The Law Protects AED Rescuers”
- More SCA Stories
Hi, my name is Steven Tanenbaum. I’m 66 years old at the present time. Uh, really if you look at it a different way, I’m, I’m 10 years old because I had the great luck to survive a sudden cardiac arrest, which happened on may six to 2009. And, uh, I think about it every single day. It’s part of my fiber and who I am. And I realize how lucky I was to be in the right place at the right time. And I’ve also come to realize how important it is that saving people is a matter of preparation, uh, education, awareness and training. And not luck as happened in my case. Uh, and I’ve kind of devoted my life to making sure that more people are saved because of that preparation. So back on May sixth, 2009, I was playing softball. I had been at the cardiologist three weeks prior to that for physical examination.
I was told everything was fine and away I went to play softball. So, uh, I remember walking out to the field in the third inning playing third base and uh, talking with one of my friends and that’s all I really remember. I don’t remember the rest of what happened other than I have a vague recollection of walking back to the dugout. But I’ve been told that I sat down in the dugout and keeled over and this is where the luck component took over. There was a class at the public school that night and parents were waiting to pick up their children. Some of my teammates started CPR but didn’t really know what they were doing. They were just banging on my chest. And I can tell you though, bang pretty hard because four months later I was still experiencing pain on my chest, which I was glad to experience anyway.
When children were being led out to mothers in the parking lot in the back who were waiting to pick up their children, they heard what happened. One turned out to be a nurse and another one turned out to be a retired EMT worker to two women. And they took over the CPR. And when the 911 call went out for the defibrillator, I’ve been told they got me within three to five minutes from the onset of the arrest and I was shocked three times with the police defibrillator. And people who meet survivors always want to know two things. They want to know if we had an out of body experience and they also want to know if we felt anything we were in shocked. So the answer to the first question is no, I did not see the tunnel or the light or anything like that.
The answer to the second question, whether you felt anything or not, I do have an answer to. And I always tell people I felt gratitude because I know without that AED being there, I would not be here today. So, in any event, I woke up in the ambulance and they told me that I was a very lucky guy and I still couldn’t figure out why I had just been playing third base and now I’m in an ambulance and I’m lucky I couldn’t figure out how I could possibly be lucky. So I woke up and they told me I had just survived a cardiac arrest. I was one of the rare few people that ever seen survive an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. And I was into a local hospital and turn that I had two blockages of the Widowmaker artery, 99% and 95% blockage of the Widowmaker artery.
And they started calling me the miracle man for having survived that and neurologically intact, you know, fortunately as well. So they put two stents in me the next day and I was home a day later. And a lot of the healing for cardiac arrest survivors is really not physical. It’s mental or emotional. And you start trying to figure out what happened to you and why it happened to you. But, you get past that and you start looking at the bigger picture. You start looking at how am I going to survive this? Can I get back to being who I was? So I immediately dedicated my time to try and to get back to who I was. Because that’s a goal for cardiac survivors to become the same person they were before. But I learned a very valuable lesson. You can become a better person.
And I’ve learned this from a lot of my colleagues at Parent Heart Watch who’ve lost children. I’ve seen how they are true survivors and how they’ve become stronger people for what they’ve been through. And I’ve, I’ve tried to model myself after that. So shortly after my cardiac arrest, I met a woman named Karen [inaudible] who unfortunately lost a child to sudden cardiac arrest. And she changed my life. She motivated me, she redirected me. And instead of feeling sorry for myself, I came to look upon what happened to me is a life-changing event, right? I could make a difference in the world. So I started working with Karen. I learned how to become a CPR instructor through their foundation. I’ve, I since participated in the training of more than 10,000 people in CPR, and I know of quite a few saves which have been a result of that.
I was asked to become a board of directors member of the sudden cardiac arrest association, or I served two years in the last few months of my service. I was the board chair and I met the people at parent heart watch through Karen Acompora and realized that I could be at the biggest service to them because of my eyes. They were the true survivors and I’ve had the privilege to work with wonderful people, Martha Lopez Anderson, Melinda Martin and Karen at parent heart watch. And I’ve learned that as a survivor we bring certain credibility to our work and to our mission and to our classes. So I really come to look at this as, as a life changing event, which I hope and truly believe has made me a better person. It’s helped me to understand a lot about life. I understand that we really don’t own a lot in life.
We kind of rent it and we never know when the lease is up. So I’ve tried to use every day and as much time as I can to try and give back and help other people. Again, the goal is to prevent this from being a lucky occurrence. People are safe and make sure that it is really a matter of preparation and education and awareness. So I’ve been privileged to meet survivors from all over the world, many of whom are with us here at this conference. I’ve been privileged to work with some wonderful foundations with a sudden cardiac arrest association, parent heart watch, the sudden cardiac arrest foundation. I’ve met incredibly giving people who have really enriched my life and made my life better. So I’m a very proud survivor, a very lucky survivor, very happy survivor. But I’m also very grateful survivor. And I think that all survivors, she try and look at it rather than why me, but why not me? And how can I make something positive out of this?
In my travels I’ve come to learn that there is a terrible lack of knowledge and awareness and education in the general public about sudden cardiac arrest and what it really represents. And people just don’t seem to understand why defibrillators are needed on scene. Why they can’t wait for an ambulance to come. People still have a terrible misperception that they can either hurt the victim. And again, you can’t hurt someone who’s already clinically dead. They come, they’re concerned about litigation and there’s good Samaritan legislation enacted throughout the country. They’re also afraid that they can themselves can get hurt or that an AED is too difficult to use. And I have done many demonstrations. One in particular comes to mind where I had two 12 year old boys. I gave them an AED training model and I gave them a mannequin and I said, shock.
This guy, they looked at the defibrillator and they saw the green on button, it turned it on and they plugged the pads in. They’d deliver the shotgun less than 90 seconds. So that tells you that the key to all of this is awareness and training. Once people take a CPR class in the beginning, they’re terribly afraid they’re going to get hurt. Particularly, you know, by using the AED. And then after they, she has simple and easy to use. They do use it. They just can’t understand why there aren’t more of them around and why people are afraid to use them. And we try to use these classes to educate people and to raise awareness and to become advocates of ours. We want them going into restaurants and hotels and catering holes and swimming clubs and things like that, and asking people where their AED is.
Why aren’t you concerned about your customers and guests? And I always tell people, shop owners, movie theaters, et cetera. If you don’t have any AED, do you want to be in tomorrow’s newspaper as the store that cared for someone so somebody was saved or that you didn’t care for someone to put an AED? And then someone lost their life that could have been saved. I also tell the shop owners, if someone is going to have a cardiac arrest here, it’s most likely going to be you and you’re likely the one who’s going to be saved. So I asked him, would you be concerned about liability if it was your life being saved? And the answer was always no. So the key to the industry and the key to our mission is awareness, education, and training. Uh, a large overwhelming percentage of the population is completely unaware of how simple and AED is to use and why it’s so critical that it be used by on-scene lay rescuers.
And while we can’t wait for an ambulance to come, can we need him? In my opinion, we need more AEDs in more places. So a research needs to be undertaken to determine where the population centers are, where people are most likely to congregate, the most visible places to place ads, but more importantly to train the public how to use them. A lot of times these can be threatening to people who don’t know better. The signage needs to be improved so people aren’t afraid to use them. A lot of them say to be used by trained responders. Only the cases say that. And that scares off a lot of people. So we need more ads and more locations where the population is going to be in terms of sporting events. We need them to sporting events. We need them at marathons, we need them at swim meets, we need them, and all locations where people congregate on, on a regular basis.
We also need them strategically placed because if an AED is five minutes away, that really means it’s 10 minutes away because somebody needs to run five minutes to get it and then run five minutes back. And we all know the statistics, how you lose a 10% chance of life, uh, for every minute that goes by without CPR and defibrillation. So if 10 minutes go by, if there’s an AED five minutes away, 10 minutes ago in the bike go by, most people will die from that. So we need to spread the word and spread the availability of ads.
So the public needs to understand that in no state in the country does the law require a bystander on the street to come to the aid of another person. But in order to encourage people to do so, every state in the country and on a federal level, there have been, there has been good Samaritan legislation enacted. So the purpose of this good Samaritan legislation is to encourage people to undertake a duty to try and help somebody and give them a indemnity or protection from liability. So generally, uh, if there is an out-of-hospital arrest and the person who’s the restaurant did not cause the arrest, let’s say by an auto accident or something like that, the law gives that person as a lay rescue or out of the hospital and implied consent of the victim to render assistance that’s necessary. That includes the use of an AED.
So the laws from state to state vary. But the most important thing that people need to know is even if you do something wrong, in most cases the law will protect you. But secondly, in every state, it would have to be proven that you did something through the use of an AED to cause injury or death to somebody. So it’s very important to understand that someone who has had a cardiac arrest is clinically dead and you cannot cause any harm or injury. Someone who’s clinically dead, you could only help them. So we encourage people to understand Good Samaritan legislation. I have been teaching CPR now for 10 years, and I told you somewhere in the year of 10,000 students, I always give a guarantee as an attorney that if they render CPR, use an AED with somebody, and if they get sued, I will defend them. And I’m so sure they’re not going to get sued that I tell them I’ll do it for free. And so far I’ve got no business out of this. So my advice is to go ahead, save a life. The law protects you.