Dave Carlstrom, a former Fairbanks airport marketing director and minister, had just finished playing racquetball at a gym in Seattle when his heart stopped in early December. They say he was dead.
View First Aid Corps World Map of AED Locations in a larger map
And he would have been, except the people around him knew just what to do — they gave him CPR and hooked him up to an automatic external defibrillator.
“You never think it will happen to you,” said Carlstrom, who turned 62 the next day. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the quick-thinking staff and members at the gym who were able to apply CPR and activate the AED within three minutes of the incident.”
It happened at the L.A. Fitness center in Ballard. After Carlstrom and his racquetball partner, Leo Muller, sat down after their game, Carlstrom felt ill.
I was “sitting down on the bench, as is our usual custom to catch a breath, putting away the gear, and suddenly feeling a profound sense of unwellness,” Carlstrom told the TV station.
Then he slid to the floor, his face turning purple.
Flight attendant Page Huletz was working out and saw what happened. As part of her airline work, she receives periodic training on CPR and the use of external defibrillators.
As the employees of the health club rushed to perform CPR on Dave, Huletz reached for the electronic device.
“Right away we shocked him, his body comes up off the floor, and then the shock is absorbed and he took his first breath, and that was a miracle right there,” Huletz.
Dave was in the hospital for five days and is back at home. The story says he was “banned” from the racquetball courts until January.
He appeared on the TV story with the flight attendant who saved him and he also posed for pictures with the fire department personnel, who arrived in less than four minutes, and the health club workers.
“There’s been enormous mercy and grace in my life,” Dave said.
I asked Dave by email what it felt like when his heart stopped. He repeated the comment about the mercy and grace that has come his way and said:
“As for what it was like … after keeling over (quick, painless … great way to exit this mortal stage, albeit with a few loose ends for successors and assigns) I only saw darkness, i.e., no beckoning tunnel of light, etc.,” he said.
“I asked our pastor if I should be concerned. She thought a moment and inquired, ‘What was the temperature?’ No flames, so the matter was deemed theologically inconclusive … could be going either way.”