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Sudden Cardiac Arrest at Home

Sudden Cardiac Arrest at Home

March 10, 2020 | Last Updated: July 16, 2021

When Butch suffered Sudden Cardiac Arrest at home, Susie, his wife, performed CPR for several minutes while she waited for help to arrive. Fortunately, a volunteer responder quickly came to the rescue with an AED (before the ambulance arrived over 20 minutes later!).

Susie and Butch have made it their mission to train as many people as they can in hands-only CPR. They’ve also raised money and donations to provide Automated External Defibrillators for their local school system and other first responders.

While Susie saved Butch’s life way back in 2004, when you hear the couple share their story, it feels like it was yesterday.



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Full Transcript

Butch (00:05):

Well on April 2nd, 2004 I had a very shocking experience. When I had a sudden cardiac arrest at my home, I had just been acting in a community play, which is a fundraiser for our swimming pool in town and I don’t remember any of this. I don’t remember the play that night. I said my chest was hurting on the way home. We got home and we’re trying to think whether we should go to the hospital, which is 20 miles away, but we were going to go in the car because by the time we got there it’d be alright. But it didn’t, my heart stopped. I quit breathing. Uh, Susie started CPR, did CPR by herself for about two or three minutes till a lot of local first responders who are a non transport EMS team. Got there and I got the first shock at about four minutes after it happened. 

Butch (00:59):

The ambulance got there about 25 minutes later they started giving the cardiac drugs and that’s when they got my heartbeat back to stay. They loaded me up in the ambulance and we went to the local hospital 20 miles away. They say I came to halfway there and then I was in the ER in Sheraton, our local hospital that I was flown by helicopter to Des Moines where I spent eight days and they checked through my heart. They saw that I needed an implanted defibrillator. I got that put in. I’m on my third defibrillator now. This happened 15 years ago and since then it’s gone off three times, so it’s saved my life three more times, but if it hadn’t been for Suzie being there right when it happened, she is a nurse. She worked six at night to six in the morning. This was at 9:30 at night, but she wasn’t working that night. Otherwise I would have been home alone and wouldn’t have been here. 

Susie (01:58):

That’s why it’s so important that everybody knows CPR. I don’t care if you’re healthcare or what. No CPR and don’t be afraid to start. We want you to be the help, not wait for the help and having public AEDs and knowing how to use them. 

Butch (02:15):

We applied for grants and raised money and put AEDs in all the schools in the County. Our County is very small, so that’s only 4 AEDs. But we raised money and got them and we helped, uh, the law enforcement of the County, get them put in their patrol cars. We’ve helped various places and organizations, churches and schools get AEDs placed and we’ve taught a thousand or oil. We’ve taught more than a thousand students, CPR, both certified classes and hands only classes in the last 15 years. 

Susie (02:47):

You guys are the ones that make the difference. They can do all sorts of things at the hospitals, but if we don’t get somebody to the hospital that they have something to work with, it doesn’t matter. And you can’t these people because their dad and they’re going to stay dead unless you do something. So you’re the ones that make a difference. You can break ribs, you can punch your lungs, you can lacerate a liver that doesn’t matter. Those will heal. So do hard, aggressive CPR and you’ll make a difference. 

Butch (03:20):

And you don’t need to put your mouth on a stranger’s mouth anymore. Just do the hands only that would keep a lot of people from doing CPR that didn’t want to put their mouth on another mouth so they wouldn’t do anything. They wait for the help and she says, we want you to be the L. Dot. Wait for the hell. And this has gotten more people to do CPR with just doing hands only. And this is just on adults or teens that the hands only is preferred. 

Susie (03:45):

Infants and babies. They still want you to give them breaths, talk to them, talk to the heart association, talk to your local EMS, go from there and don’t be afraid to be active. 

Butch (04:00):

And there are grants out there that you can get for defibrillators. There’s also a, you know, a lot of places have local grants that they give to nonprofit organizations for almost any purpose. They want. A lot of our area down there have applied for grants, got grants to pay for all or part of the, the IC, the AED. So you just want to, if your fire department is not an EMS system, at least have them get an AED because the quicker you get there, timing is the enemy in a cardiac arrest, the quicker you can get those, uh, compression started from the time that your heart stops beating and your chance of survival goes down 10%. So it’s 10 minutes or every minute it goes down 10%. So if your, uh, not helped in 10 minutes, you’re a zero. So the main thing is, remember you gotta act now, get on that chest and have someone called nine one one immediately. 

Susie (05:03):

And if they have a survivor in their community and the survivor wants to promote it, some P, some of the survivors don’t want anything to do. They want to stay private and that’s their right. But if you have a survivor that wants to promote it, talk to them, listen to them. Because as you can tell, they become real passionate about it. 

Butch (05:27):

I feel, I haven’t changed a whole lot except my brain doesn’t process things like it used to be. I don’t remember. Like I used to, Susie says it’s because I’m old. I say it’s because of my cardiac arrest. It’s probably a combination of, 

Susie (05:43):

because he went back to work for 10 years after he arrested. So it’s not like this has been every since then. Yeah, 

Butch (05:50):

me, I’ve been a normal person the whole time or before it happened or at least she says as normal as I was, uh, I shoot off my mouth more. She says I don’t agree with something. I usually kept quiet, but now I’m stating in my opinion in probably embarrassing situations for her. But yeah. 

Susie (06:11):

But it has changed our life a lot. It’s kind of taken over. You know, I was in health care, we’ve been first responders way before this, but we do a lot of this stuff to promote it, which you know, we wouldn’t have ever done before. And that’s why, you know, we assume healthcare, people all know all this. If you don’t work with it, you don’t. But when it hits you personally, you become passionate about it. And I guess that’s a good thing. We’re not all passionate about the same issues, but you know, we’ve become real passionate and so it has taken over a lot of our lives. 

Butch (06:48):

Well, the thing you know, you have a medical problem, you call for an ambulance, they come take him to the hospital, the doctor makes them well and they come home. So to this cardiac arrest person that happens, they come home with only about seven or 8% of them come home. So when you come home they don’t realize what a big deal it is. I was an EMT, she’s a nurse and an EMT. We knew how big a deal it was when they saved me. And a lot of people don’t realize it. Even the victims don’t realize for a few minutes there they were dead. Their heart was not beating and their blood wasn’t pumping, they weren’t breathing. So they were dead and the CPR robbed them back to life. 

Susie (07:30):

They really have made them pretty easy. One thing I would like to see changed, and I don’t know if it’s even practical because I asked one time, especially like first our first responder units, we don’t use it real frequently so the pads dry out and then you have expiration dates. So it’s a big expense. If your money’s limited. I wish there was a way they could recycle the unused pads and you know, put more gel on them and repackage them or something. It just seems like such a waste when you throw all these pads away because they’re outdated. 

Butch (08:06):

The AEDS and the equipment that goes with them are expensive, but what price can you put on somebody’s life? 

Susie (08:13):

They talk to you. They tell you pretty much what to do. If you can just listen. Sometimes you’re too rattled to remember to listen, but if you just listen, they tell you what to do. 

Butch (08:24):

There was a story of a seven year old boy in Texas who went and grabbed an AED off the wall and the shopping center and saved his grandmother. He was seven years old. He knew to get that machine, turn it on, and it told him what to do and they saved you, saved his grandmother. 

Susie (08:41):

So, but I think they’re, you know, they’re safe and that’s what scares people thinking they’re going to shock them at the wrong time and they won’t shock a beating heart. So just listen and follow the commands.