Mondays are typically not a good have to get back 'into the swing' of things after the weekend, get geared up for another week of work. For Escalon resident Arnold Doek,  however,  one recent Monday was worse than normal ... he suffered a near fatal heart attack and woke up in an intensive care unit on Thursday, not knowing how he got there.

Doek works part-time for Escalon Lumber and was in the mill room on a recent Monday when he started to feel lightheaded. Co-worker Clyde Hogan noticed Doek and urged him to sit down, saying he didn't look too good.  "I don't remember a thing after Clyde said that," Doek said recently. 

Co-worker Clyde Hogan noticed Doek and urged him to sit down, saying he didn't look too good. "I don't remember a thing after Clyde said that," Doek said recently.

In the next few minutes, said Escalon Community Ambulance chief Mike Pitassi, some "death defying dynamics" came into play that prevented Doek from becoming just another statistic.

Each year, the American Heart Association reports, 'Sudden Cardiac Arrest' claims the lives of over 600,000 people in the United States, with nearly 340,000 of those cases occurring before the victim reaches a hospital.

Ambulance, Fire Teams Provide Lifesaving Effort
April 20, 2005
"Many of those who suffer from Sudden Cardiac Arrest could be saved if the communities they live in are well prepared"  said Pitassi.  "In Arnold's case, the system worked."

With his co-worker Hogan recognizing that Doek had suffered a serious attack, he quickly called 9-1-1. Brent Focha stayed at Doek's side and assisted him with his breathing while dispatchers receiving the call for help set off  the radio calls to the Escalon Fire Department and Escalon Community Ambulance alerting them to the emergency.

"The response time was under three minutes from the time of dispatch to the time of arrival," added Pitassi.   Fire department assistant chief Terry Pinheiro, firefighters Cassidy Bohannon, James Dudley and Jeff Fernandes were first to arrive. Bohannon opened the airway and began the process of breathing while Dudley began chest compressions, CPR.  Pinheiro and Fernandes applied the AED - Automatic External Defibrillator - pads, which advised the firefighters that Doek's heart needed to be shocked in order for a normal heartbeat to be restored. The shock button was pushed twice before Paramedics Tina Van Houten, a  20-year veteran with ECA and Shannan Van Houten, a recent Paramedic graduate, arrived. Tina Van Houten took over the scene and Doek received a dose of lidocane,  a drug used in hearts that are over stimulated and cannot respond appropriately to shock.

"The next couple of shocks a from the AED machine worked and Arnold's heart  began beating in a regular normal fashion,"  Pitassi explained. "On the way to the hospital, Bohannon and Fernandes rode with the ambulancelance in case Arnold's heart was to stop again."

Once inside the ambulance, Doek was hooked up to a lidocane IV drip to deliver a steady stream of the drug to help soothe his heart in an attempt to stabilize it. He was given oxygen through a facemask and his blood pressure was monitored along with other vital signs on the way to the hospital.       

"Doctors kept Arnold in the hospital intensive care ward under a medically induced coma to allow his brain and vital organs a chance to heal," said Pitassi.  Upon his release, Arnold was implanted with his own personal defibrillator that will sense a change in Arnold's heart rhythm and automatically correct any problem that occurs in the future.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the AED's in September, 2004, to be sold over the counter. AED use has proven scientifically to be the most reliable way to successfully treat Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Time is of the essence with the chances of survival decreasing rapidly as the victim goes without a normal heartbeat.

"Escalon Fire Department placed the life saving equipment on their fire engines several years ago," noted Pitassi.   "Escalon Community Ambulance recently received a donation in the memory of Jake Weeda, a local dairyman. The person making the donation anonymously asked that the money be used to support something that will 'save people's lives."

The donation, in the amount of $2,500 will be put with a Police Reserve Foundation grant of $900 to purchase two AED's for the Escalon Police Department. "Communities that have police armed with the device have much better success rates in converting those in sudden cardiac arrest because police are driving throughout the community," Pitassi added.  "People who receive early intervention have a much better chance of returning to a normal life."

Escalon Community Ambulance has trainers available to the public for those who want to be trained in CPR and AED use or just learn more about the devices. Call ECA at 8381351 for more information about class times and dates for training. "ECA hopes to help other organizations with the effort to make AED's become a common site in the community," Pitassi said. "It is the hope of ECA that AED's will become seen right alongside of fire extinguishers in every business."

Courtesy of Escalon Times

L-R. Moe Silva, Shannon Van Houten, Arnold Doek, Cassidy Bohannon, Jeff Fernandes