Sudden Cardiac Arrest Save in Chik-fil-A
“With Sudden Cardiac Arrest, you have no time. There’s no time on the table. You’re on the ground. You have less than 10 minutes to live. If someone doesn’t move or act or do something, you’re gone.”
Ed Kosiec was training for his fourth marathon, in the best shape of his life, when he experienced Sudden Cardiac Arrest while at Chik-fil-A. Fortunately for Ed Kosiec, 18 year-old Sarah was cooking fries in the kitchen when he collapsed that day. When other people stepped back, Sarah stepped in and performed CPR to help save Ed’s life. Listen to their story.
Ed Kosiec: Yes. My name is Ed Kosiec and I’m married to my wife, Holly. It was a normal day for me, ran 10 miles that day and was cooling down. I was just hungry and I really wanted something to eat. I was craving Chick-fil-A. So we went there, my wife and I. She didn’t really want to go. I said, “You got to go with me. I want to go to Chick-fil-A.” So we go there. We ate lunch. Eating, everything’s fine. There were some cute little kids behind me and I was waving to them saying, “Hello.” It was just a fun day.
Sarah: I’m Sarah. I am 19 years old. I’m a college sophomore now. At the time I was 18. I was a senior in high school when I met Ed. I was working at Chick-Fil-A when I had picked up this really random shift. It was from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Who works three hours at a time? Nobody. But I was, and I was in the kitchen. I’m never in the kitchen. I was cooking fries. I never do that. I was really excited actually, because I’m always in the front, but I got to do something different.
Avive: Chick-fil-A has earned quite a reputation over the years for its customer service, but life-saving, isn’t exactly on the menu. However, at one Boynton Beach, Florida location in 2019, that’s exactly what was served up.
Ed Kosiec: Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I just get dizzy, real dizzy, sweaty, and I’m like, “Whoa, what’s going on? Something’s going on here. I’ve got to get some fresh air.” I attempted to get up off the stool and that’s all I remember. I woke up the next day at a hospital, at JFK, not knowing one thing that had happened. Because that’s what happens in cardiac arrest, you’re gone. Everything else is what Sarah tells me, what my wife says, and everybody at Chick-fil-A.
Avive: When Ed decided to go to Chick-fil-A that day, Sudden Cardiac Arrest was the furthest thing from his mind. By all accounts, Ed was healthy and the most physically fit he had ever been.
Ed Kosiec: Okay. First of all, I was training for my fourth marathon. I was in very, very good shape. I was running about 50 miles a week. I do a lot of yoga, a lot of strength training. I got in this fantastic shape the last five years of my life, probably the best shape I’ve been in all my life. And my message is that Sudden Cardiac Arrest can happen to that person that thinks he’s in the best shape and thinks it’s not going to happen to me. Fortunately, I did wake up the next day because of the grace of God. I realized the severity of what had happened to me and learned about a cardiac arrest, which I had no clue what it was. I heard about it, but never really understood it. So since then, I really in-depthly researched it and have become very involved in trying to figure out ways to help improve survival.
Avive: Luckily for Ed, Sarah, who was just there picking up a three hour shift, had undergone rigorous training and CPR.
Sarah: I had been in the kitchen. I was probably like 50 feet away from the event with two walls separating me. My manager comes back and she says, “Does anyone know CPR?” I’m like, “Man, she doesn’t know who needs CPR.” I’m like, “He’s probably choking on nugget.” That’s what I was thinking in my mind. I was like, “I’m going to have to do the Heimlich. Everything’s going to be totally fine.” And I walk out and he was just on his back on the floor and his face was blue. And I said, “CPR.” She was right. This isn’t choking, this isn’t anything traumatic in terms of blunt force or something like that. It’s a medical issue. And knowing what I know about who needs CPR. He was having agonal respirations, he was just kind of gasping and they would happen every 30 seconds. And I’m like, “Okay, cardiac arrest.”
Honestly, that thought process took me like under 10 seconds. And I was just like, “Okay, great. Someone call 911, please.” And then I’m just doing compressions, doing compressions. And yeah, it was kind of scary, actually, for a second. I mean, not long because I wasn’t thinking about it. I was like, “Okay, well, if I do this, he’ll be okay.” Which I think is really optimistic, but I was drilled so hard in school. My instructor was so, so good and so strict with us.
Avive: Sarah’s extensive training helped her to do the right things at the right time, with a little room for second-guessing herself. And while there were many similarities to the drills she had performed over and over again, it wasn’t lost on her that this was the real deal.
Sarah: So I’m like, “Okay, cardiac arrest.” And I’m like, “I know that I have eight minutes of oxygen in the blood, so I’m just going to go for compression. So I’m just going to go hard.” And honestly, it got to the point where I think I counted the first two or three rounds, and then I was just going. I’m not even counting anymore. And I stopped for a second because I was looking at him and he started breathing a little bit faster. And I was like, “Am I supposed to be doing something different? Should I stop compressions? Should I let him come back to me?” And then me and Cassie were just sitting there like, “Ed, Ed. Talk to us. Talk to us, Ed.” And then I was doing compressions again, and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. Should I not have stopped that long?”
And then the paramedics got there a couple of minutes later. And I was like, “Oh, no, I ruined it. I ruined it. I should’ve just kept going.” But luckily for me, that split second was literally a split second. And it was definitely under 10 seconds, which is the optimal. If you have interruptions in compressions, you want to keep it under 10 seconds. It’s going to be okay. It was actually really cool because within the first 30 seconds of me just pumping his chest, I look over and his face just got flushed again. And I was like, “I’m hitting the right spot. That’s so cool.”
It was really cool to see, honestly, but then it was also just a great bang of confidence for me because I’m like, “Okay, well, I’m not hitting the wrong area. I’m not doing it wrong,” because I had never done it on a real person before. This is my first time doing CPR on a real person. I’ve only done mannequins so far. And I just remember thinking like, “Wow, this isn’t actually that different from the mannequin. Because of the recoil, I was like, “Okay, this is kind of cool.”
Avive: Sarah says that having a supportive community is as immensely important as having someone who knows high-quality CPR.
Sarah: And I think the supportive mindset of everyone around me too was really, really important, because it really was. Yes, I was the only one responding, I was the only one doing compressions, but there was a whole community of people. I kid you not, on the other side of the restaurant, everyone had just cleared the way. Everyone moved chairs and move tables. Cassie, my manager was on the phone on a guest’s phone. Because the guests had called 911 and she was using that person’s phone to talk to them and tell them how to get there. And all the guests were on the other side of the store. When the paramedics had gotten there, I looked over and it was just amazing. The entire store was outside just in a circle just praying for Ed.
But the responding crews, there were actually two responding crews. One crew came, responded, did CPR and did high-quality pit crew CPR, and another came and transported. It was insane. It was like eight different firefighters in there all working together. And I think to sum it all up, number one, knowledge of CPR and a knowledge of what high quality CPR and the confidence to do that and then a community effort involving the entire scene. And everyone on that scene is really what I think made that successful. And honestly, just the grace of God, because I don’t know how that happened.
Avive: The most frightening thing for Sarah was the moment she realized her store didn’t have an AED on site. But luckily, that has since changed.
Sarah: Yeah, and then they started doing their CPR and I was like, “Thank God they have an AED,” because I remember looking around… When I first started compressions, I was looking around and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. My store doesn’t have an AED. I can’t defibrillate. I have to wait until EMS gets here.” If anything was scariest, that was probably it, honestly. That whole pause that I had, the small voice of like, is this actually going to work? All of that kind of like a split second type of thing. But then this was like, “Okay, I actually don’t have everything that I need to be able to deliver the utmost care.” And I’m thinking of this and I’m like 18. And utmost care… Like what? You’re in high school.
So I remember the EMS got there and they defibrillate. And that was something I had never seen anyone get defibrillated before either, so that was interesting. It was three minutes and 48 seconds without an AED. I don’t know. Early defibrillation is one of the prime factors in people surviving, and we didn’t have that.
Ed Kosiec: That restaurant, as of now, since this has happened, all that staff was trained in CPR and there’s an AED in that store, which I think is wonderful. And I think that needs to happen everywhere. We’ve got a fire extinguisher in every public place. We need to have AEDs everywhere too. Because I know a lot of people ask, they’re like, “Oh, that’s for the medical professional person. That’s not for the everyday person.” We need to get people to say, just like you see a fire extinguisher, you see an AED, you can use it. Everybody can use it. It’s not just for the EMT people. I think people just don’t know. And I struggled with that, how do we get people to understand this?
Avive: Sarah eventually reunited with Ed and the emergency personnel from that day, and that’s when she realized exactly the role she had played in helping to save Ed’s life.
Sarah: It wasn’t until I think, honestly, our reconnection, our reunion, that I found out how much of an impact I’ve really had made. I understood the statistics and everything of cardiac arrest. But I’m thinking, when I hear first responder, and I think when the general public hears first responders, we think firefighter, we think paramedic, we think EMT. We don’t think layperson on the sideline that’s first to the scene. Because you’re a first responder too if you’re the first respond, but a lot of times we don’t think about that. And so when I think about response time, I’m like, “Oh, EMS. EMS getting to the scene, dispatch time, all of that,” instead of the layperson. And that’s still where my head was at the time. And so when we got to the fire station and I was meeting of all the officers and the crew that had responded that day, they were all shaking my hand like, “Great job, good job. He would not be alive if it wasn’t for you. Good job getting there on time. You helped us,” like this, this and that.
And I was like, “Okay, good. I didn’t do the wrong thing. I did well. It was good that I didn’t hesitate.” It doesn’t happen every day to everyone in real life. So you’re kind of like, “Well, did I really make the difference? Did it really matter?” And then I think talking to all the firefighters after we reunited was really where I was like, “Okay, great. I knew what I was doing and I shouldn’t have questioned myself in the first place. And it’s okay if it happens again. I know exactly what to do.” A lot of people have these fears, and so I think that holds a lot of people back from wanting to initiate CPR. Because if you just have to pump hard and fast on the chest and that’s it, you’re not even counting anymore, it becomes a lot simpler, a lot easier to remember how to do.
Avive: When Ed finally got to meet Sarah for the first time, he says he had joy in his heart to go along with the pain in his ribs.
Ed Kosiec: Yes, that was a very emotional day for me because I’m finally meeting someone that saved my life. And I didn’t sleep the night before to tell you the truth, because who is this person? Who was this guardian angel that saved my life? I’ve got to meet her. The suspense was killing me. So that day, going to the firefighter, I mean, seeing all the firemen that I hadn’t seen, I didn’t even know who they were because I didn’t know who they were. I didn’t see them. It was awesome to see this young girl come running in with her scrubs on, from the school down the street and I’m like, “Wow, this is amazing. Totally amazing that this young girl was… ” I always tell people, “I was at the right place on the right day at the right time. And if it wasn’t for her doing high quality CPR, not just any old CPR, the girl knew what she was doing. And I couldn’t have had a better person.”
I still get emotional a little bit because it’s just an amazing story. And about my ribs, talking about high-quality CPR, she’s doing it the right way. My ribs were sore for months afterwards. So that’s how you know CPR was done right. And sometimes they say that you can break ribs, which that’s a good thing. So that was a good pain that I had afterwards.
Avive: Since Ed’s sudden cardiac arrest, he has devoted himself to getting the word out to help increase survival.
Ed Kosiec: Survivorship is very interesting and very challenging in a lot of ways because the reason being, because there’s not too many of us. I mean, the ratio of survival is one out of 10. The survival rates have not improved. We’re great with social media, we’re getting out there, but it’s not enough. I don’t know what it’s going to take to get it to that next level for survivorship. And that’s what I’m about and what I want to change and help change. And there’s tons of people doing great things around this nation and the world.
I’m still amazed at my survival. I’m in a Chick-fil-A, and if you’ve been to a Chick-fil-A, you know what goes on there. There’s 30, 40 people in a restaurant and there’s 50 cars wrapped around it. Everybody in that whole store, not one person knew CPR, but some young girl behind the kitchen. That has to change. We need more people to make change and do something. And we started Every Second Counts CPR. So that’s the name I came up with because When it comes down to it every second in the process of Sudden Cardiac Arrest matters, from the first person calling 911, the person getting the AED, someone starting CPR. When you find out every minute wasted is 10% of that person’s life going away. So every second counts and people have to move, and that has to change.
Sarah: Even if you have the slightest knowledge of CPR and you think you might be able to help, do it! There’s so many people that are afraid to get sued or afraid they might cause more harm than good or afraid that the person might die anyways. And you can’t let that stop you from attempting to save someone’s life.
Ed Kosiec: Yes. So my saying I say, now, “If you do nothing, the result will be nothing.” If you ever see somebody in need, go help that person. That person needs your help. My advocacy program is to tell people, first of all, you will not hurt that person. That person is dying on that floor. So first of all, do whatever you can do. Do those compressions. You will not hurt them. That’s number one.
The cynical world that we are in, that people think we’re going to get sued and we’re going to hurt them or you’ll do something wrong and you’re going to get sued. The Good Samaritan Laws protects us. If you’re trying to do the right thing to save that person, you will not get sued. So I think those are the two biggest hurdles to get over for the public to react and know, start the compressions, you won’t hurt him, you won’t get sued. If we can get that drilled in people’s heads, I think we’ll see more people like Sarah jumping into action and helping people, which I don’t think people truly understand the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest.
I always tell people cardiac arrest is electrical and heart attack is plumbing. Sudden Cardiac Arrest you have no time. There’s no time on the table. You’re on the ground. You have less than 10 minutes to live. If someone doesn’t move or act or do something, you’re gone.
Avive: Sarah was uniquely trained in CPR through magnet programs, which is why Ed is here today. But what if all students had regular CPR practice in school several times a year? It doesn’t have to be as advanced as Sarah’s program, but simple and repetitive training could prepare a generation of lifesavers like Sarah for a leading cause of death in the United States.
Sarah: I mean, when you’re conditioned, it’s kind of like being an athlete, but mentally. You go through the same drills over and over and over, and your body’s just so at its peak and prepared that running a mile in seven minutes, it’s like, okay. I had been in medical academies, magnet programs, some people call them choice programs, since I was in middle school. So I started the medical thing when I was in eighth grade. I did do a CPR course. I didn’t get certified until high school. And we would actually go as 13, 14 year olds where they did their medical simulations. And they had a practice ambulance and they had practice mannequins. They would tell you what’s wrong with them and we learned how to do CPR on them every time we went.
We did a bunch of emergency response stuff and the director of the fire department was giving us all these presentations about trauma and different branches of the emergency field. And we learned more CPR and more CPR and how to do more CPR. And then we did trauma bleeding and bandaging. And then we had a mass casualty incident role-play, and it was crazy. And literally, like a month after that Ed happened, and so I was just already in trauma mode. I’m sorry. Not to laugh, but there’s so much really rigorous training that we went through for people at such a young age, honestly. And I really think that just conditioned me so well to the point where I saw it in real life. And I was like, “I’ve done this on probably 822 mannequins, and I’m ready.” So it was like second nature almost. It was awesome.
Ed Kosiec: I think every kid should learn CPR. There’s 43 states with that law, with kids being certified, or not certified, just knowing the basics of CPR. There’s seven states that aren’t. Florida is not one of them. I’m working with a friend of mine up in the Melbourne area who’s trying to fight our laws to get that changed. This is common sense. We would have an army of lifesavers every year that would know what to do to save a life, just like Sarah, a young girl. It’s a no-brainer. And I think it’s just like clockwork. I think in advertising, you’ve got to see something either 11 or 17 times before it starts sinking in your head that you realize it’s automatic thinking. So we’ve got to get some process in education. Kids are sponges. I say start at the littlest age you can, and kids absorb everything. So you get them to that point when they’re 18 and keep on drilling them year after year, they know exactly CPR. They know what that AED is. They are going to be lifesavers. I think going forward, that has to happen.
Avive: Someone recently described the chain of survival is actually a pyramid of survival, with the bystander being at the base of the pyramid. Sarah was Ed’s base, and he is eternally grateful.
Ed Kosiec: Love you, Sarah.
Sarah: Love you too, Ed. I’ll see you later.