Fred Elliott, one of the area’s most respected and well-liked golf pros, should have died on May 23. At least that’s what the numbers tell us.
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He was playing in the Sierra Nevada Chapter’s Match Play Championship at Hidden Valley and had just arrived at the 12th tee when he dropped.
“I heard a thump,” said fellow pro Chase Stigall, who was in the foursome along with Stuart Smith and Greg Wenzel. “It’s very weird talking about it. He was flat as a board. His eyes had rolled back into his head.”
Dr. Devang Desai, an interventional cardiologist who worked on Elliott after he was transported to Renown Medical Center, said the odds aren’t good for someone in Elliott’s shoes, a 66-year-old man whose family has a history of heart issues suffering cardiac arrest miles from the nearest hospital.
Desai said Seattle has one of the best success rates in reviving out-of-hospital cardiac arrests. Still, 83 percent die. And of the 17 percent who survive, many suffer varying degrees of brain damage because of oxygen deprivation.
“He had sudden cardiac death, basically cardiac arrest,” Desai said. “When the heart stops pumping blood, in layman’s terms, you’re dead.”
But Elliott, a teaching pro at Rosewood Lakes, is more than fine, he’s great. Two stents were placed in a blocked artery, and after nearly a week in the hospital, Elliott went home. He was 10 pounds lighter, but he went home.
“If it hadn’t been for Chase and Stuart and Franco, I’d be dead,” Elliott said.
And it’s all because of an uncanny series of events and other-worldly numerology, if you believe in those sorts of things.
“They kept telling us, if it wasn’t for these guys he never would have made it,” Fred’s wife, Lori Elliott, said.
Hidden Valley had had two defibrillators for some time, one kept in the clubhouse and one in a marshal’s cart. In April, the country club purchased two more automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and at the persistence of member Laurie Newmark, a cardiology nurse, had placed them out on the course. One was near the No. 5 green and No. 6 tee, and the other was between the No. 11 green and No. 12 tee.
Soon after Elliott dropped, Stigall and Smith began CPR. Franco Ruiz, an assistant superintendent, was working around the 11th green when he saw the commotion. He had recently been trained on the AED and quickly retrieved the unit.
“I hear all this yelling, ‘Wake up, Fred!,’ and I thought they were kidding,” Ruiz said. “I just told Chase, ‘Don’t stop.’ …
“When I got there it was really scary. He was purple.”
The AED is programmed to need nothing more than to have someone turn it on and attach the wires. In the next 10-12 minutes, it shocked Elliott three or four times. Meanwhile, another pro had called 911 and an operator was guiding them through life-saving measures.
Elliott began breathing and paramedics arrived. Soon after, an ambulance whisked him away.
“I was rattled the whole rest of the day,” said Stigall, whose PGA certification requires CPR training.
Elliott said he isn’t much of a religious man — “I believe in my fellow man,” he said — but the coincidences left him a bit stupefied.
• It happened just two weeks after Hidden Valley had placed the unit on the course and put its employees through training;
• It happened on the 12th tee box, right next to where the AED was placed on a post;
• Lori Elliott has three holes-in-one, all of them on a No. 12 hole;
• Fred’s stepson, Lori’s son John Turri, has a hole-in-one — at Hidden Valley’s 12th hole — and he wore No. 12 while playing baseball at Nevada.
AEDs can cost anywhere from about $1,000 to more than $4,000. Count Elliott among those who believe it’s a small investment. Since the incident, Sierra Sage in Stead has purchased an AED and keep it with the marshal’s cart. Several other courses in the area have at least one AED.
“The strongest message of all is that (a victim) can be saved,” Sierra Sage owner Mike Mazzaferri said. “It’s good to educate golfers to call the golf shop (in such an emergency) in case they have a defibrillator.”
This is a golf example, but it’s more than a golf story, Desai said.
“You look at any place where people congregate, clearly they need these things,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing — not only do you need the equipment, but you need people who are trained to use it. …
“Most people who suffer out-of-hospital arrest, they die. Those that do survive so often have significant brain damage. Not only did they save his life, but they saved his quality of life.”