LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)—715 thousand Americans will suffer a heart attack this year. According to the American Heart Association 5.4-percent of those who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive.
But in La Crosse County, Tri-State Ambulance, first responders and good Samaritans have helped nearly 14 percent of those patients survive, including 67-year-old Darrell Pofahl.
He was playing noon basketball with a group of friends at Viterbo University, when he decided to sit out to give another person a chance to play.
There was no sign of what was about to happen. Other than being a little winded from playing, Darrell said he felt fine.
"I was resting on a bench with a wall behind it, leaned back a bit," Darrell said. "Then I leaned forward and the only thing I noticed was just a little lightness in my head. Next thing I knew the rescue squad was there and guys were working on me."
But even before they arrived, Darrell's teammates, who happened to be first responders, got to work.
"I think you just get caught up in the moment," Todd Hilby said. "I really didn't think about it until it was over."
"No one was really hyper or upset," Ward Jones said. "We were just doing what needed to do to help Darrell."
An Automatic External Defibrillator was about 20 feet from where Darrell collapsed. Paramedics say easy access saved him.
"The earlier you can defibrillate them and return to a normal heart rate the better their case or chance of survival," Mike Petersen, Shift Supervisor, Tri-State Ambulance said.
Ideally, he said there should be an AED in every public place and people shouldn't be afraid to use it because it tells you exactly what to do.
"You can't put the device on an mess things up," Petersen said. "The devise is going to do its job. You're better off to have the device there, put it on somebody and not need it than to need it and not have the device available."
Darrell and his wife Darlene feel lucky he was at Viterbo playing basketball with the right people when this happened. So lucky his doctor suggested that he buy a lottery ticket.
"We won something more than the $25 million," Darlene said. "We won Darrell. Our Kids have their dad and our new grandchild is going to have a grandpa."
Besides learning the importance of AED's, Darrell said he has a new appreciation for what's around him. He holds his wife's hand a bit more and is looking forward to the birth of his first grandchild this fall.
Tri-State Ambulance has a few AED's the community can borrow, for free, for large events like weddings or family reunions.
For more information call Tri-State at 608-784-8827.
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