Dr. James Prescott started May 17 with back pain. He didn’t think too much about it because back pain was fairly common for him.
That night when he was lying in bed talking to his wife, he blacked out. He was having a heart attack.
His son, Timothy, called 911 while his wife, Tamara, did compression-only CPR.
The Prescotts had just been to a workshop on compression-only CPR months earlier. When Timothy, 17, came back, he took over chest compressions. Police arrived and also assisted with chest compressions until EMS arrived and used a defibrillator to shock his heart.
Prescott survived and has gone on to spearhead an effort to have automated external defibrillators placed in McPherson police patrol cars and the McPherson Fire Rescue Squad unit.
Prescott was one of the lucky ones. Only about 5 percent of patients who experience home cardiac events survive. Only about 2 percent survive without brain damage.
He said his survival speaks well of McPherson emergency services. However, representatives of all branches of those services said they thought they could do better.
Randy Easter, McPherson EMS director, said the automated external defibrillators, which are also known as AEDs, are part of the circle of life during a cardiac arrest.
When someone in McPherson calls 911 when someone is having a heart attack, the 911 operator gives instructions on compression-only CPR. The AED would be the next step in the process, then advanced life support from EMS and finally hospital care.
Prescott describes the devices as simple to use. The machines, which are a bit smaller than a lunch box, direct the user with voice commands. Pads are placed on the victim, and the device measures for a heartbeat. If a shock is recommended, the device instructs the person rendering aid to stand clear of the victim and push a button to administer a shock.
CPR can then be resumed.
“Time is of the essence,” Prescott said. “It was the fast actions of my wife and son that saved my life with almost no neurological defects.”
Police officers, who are scattered throughout the city as opposed to in a station as EMS personnel are, are most likely to be the first on the scene.
Prescott said he saw the need to get the benefit of the AEDs to heart attack victims more quickly. The McPherson medical staff, private donors and the McPherson Healthcare Foundation have collaborated to raise the $10,000 necessary to buy enough AEDs for six police vehicles and the fire rescue squad unit.
Chief Robert McClarty said all McPherson police officers will be trained to use the AEDs by Jan. 22, and he hopes to have the devices in police vehicles by Jan. 23.
The Healthcare Foundation also has created a fund that will be used to purchase AEDs to be placed at other locations in the city.
If someone has a heart attack, 911 will be able to tell the caller if they are in proximity to an AED.
John Blank, CPR instructor, said in addition to the campaign to equip the community with more AEDs, emergency personnel are trying to increase awareness about compression-only CPR.
Easter said the use of compression-only CPR has increased survival rates for those who have no pulse and are not breathing from the to a percentage in the upper teens to almost 40 percent.
All of the police force’s officers have been trained in compression-only CPR within the last 90 days, McClarty said.
Prescott and his wife said they feel they have been blessed to be able to help with a project that could save lives.
“Out of this gift — I never thought I would think of a heart attack as a gift — I have been able to survive and spend time with my family,” he said.
“I was able to see my son graduate. I hope that other people can be saved. I am thankful to the foundation and the other physicians who donated to the cause.”