A little more than two weeks ago, Wayne Pritchard died. His heart stopped pumping and he had no pulse. Today, he’s at home with his wife, thanks to an automated external defibrillator (AED) and fast-acting co-workers.
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Wayne, 51, started work at 6 a.m. July 11 at Spartech Corporation, where he’s been employed for 14 years. After a busy morning, he talked with a few co-workers about going to get lunch, not knowing those same co-workers would save his life seconds later.
Wayne Pritchard the Survivor
Wayne said he picked up his tool bag and felt dizzy as he headed to lunch. The thing he remembered next was waking up on the floor with paramedics around him.
Wayne had gone into instant cardiac arrest, or had a sudden death, and his co-workers revived him with an AED.
Later, at the hospital, doctors determined he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which had caused the muscle in his heart to thicken.
It’s a genetic disease he had been tested for earlier in his life, but he had been told he didn’t have it. He never had any symptoms.
Dr. Sai Devarapalli, Wayne’s cardiologist with Medical Consultants, said the disease affects a fifth of the general population.
Doctors told Wayne’s wife, Kathleen Pritchard, it was a miracle Wayne was alive. The only reason she wasn’t planning his funeral was because of the device and the employees who used it.
“Most people don’t come back, that’s the miracle of it,” she said. “The doctor said that no CPR would have saved him.”
Devarapalli agrees that nothing else would have restarted Wayne’s heart.
“The AED is almost always successful depending on what the cause of the arrest is,” Devarapalli said.
Wayne and Kathleen want people to know the machine does save lives, and they hope more companies will install them. “Every place ought to have an AED,” Wayne said.
“People need to know, these things work and lives can be saved,” Kathleen added. “It’s a miracle; he should not have made it.”
“Survival of the person is dependent on how quickly you can get the first shock to the person,” Devarapalli said.
If an incident like Wayne’s happens in a place without an AED, it could take 10 to 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, and by then, it’s often too late.
“Those are golden minutes that can mean life or death,” Devarapalli said. “This gentleman is a perfect example of why all industries or factories should have it.”
Wayne and his wife are eternally grateful the company had an AED and the men surrounding him knew how to use it. “I work with really awesome guys,” he said.
Joe Wylie, an engineer at Spartech, was four or five feet from Wayne when he collapsed. Wylie was also the one who used the AED machine.
Wylie and 30 other employees are trained in first aid and CPR, and they were trained by the Red Cross to use the AED.
Wylie had only ever used the AED in training, and he said he never thought he’d actually have to use it.
“When it actually shocked him, it actually lifted him off the ground,” Wylie said. “It was kind of shocking.”
A few seconds later, Wayne was conscious and speaking again. “It made me feel good,” Wylie said.
Jack Collins, another Spartech employee, helped direct paramedics to where Wayne was.
Kathleen’s happy she and their adult children get to spend more time with him.
“We don’t know how to thank them (Wayne’s co-workers),” she said. “They gave me my husband back, them and God.”
Wayne now has an automated internal defibrillator (AID) placed in his heart. The internal defibrillator will save him if his heart stops again.
“It’s there monitoring his heart 24/7,” Devarapalli said. “He won’t need the AED anymore because he has one inside his heart.”
Wayne said he hopes he’ll live a long life now that he has an internal defibrillator, and he’s feeling better and healing.
Spartech plans to install another AED machine in the building, which is expanding.