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A Life-Saving Vest

February 27, 2014, 6:21 PM

A Life-Saving Vest

83-year-old Oscar Waller was enjoying his niece's wedding in Sioux Falls in January. At the beginning of the day, he felt just fine, but during the dance, the Clarkfield, Minnesota man started suffering a heart attack.

"I got a lot to do still. I can't be sitting around," Waller said.

To get Waller back on his feet, doctors placed two stents in his blocked arteries.

"We did some more testing and realized the muscle of his heart was very weak. It was pumping about a third as well as it should. In patients like that we know they have a risk of having dangerous what we call ventricular arrhythmias, which can be life-threatening," North Central Heart Institute Cardiologist Dr. Chris Paa said.

Dr. Chris Paa decided to have Waller come back in three months to be reassessed and see if he was a candidate for an implantable defibrillator.

"There is that period of time while you are waiting that there is an undefined risk to the patient," Paa said.

So Paa encouraged Waller to wear this LifeVest.

The vest has four electrodes that monitor a patient's heart and three electrodes that can deliver a shock if needed.

"I didn't like to wear it, but I did," Waller said.

Waller is very thankful, to say the least, that he decided to wear the vest.

"I was visiting with a friend one day, and he just disappeared. I fell back in the chair. He's hollering at me, 'Is something wrong?' I didn't respond, so he was calling 911 when I got shocked. I sat up and said, 'Duane, what happened?" He said, 'You were out,'" Waller said.

It turns out the vest delivered a possibly life-saving shock.

"In Oscar's case he was defibrillated rapidly out of a dangerous, probably lethal, heart rhythm," Paa said.

"I would have been under the grass now," Waller said.

Instead Waller now has an implantable defibrillator and is looking forward to another spring on the farm.

"I run machinery for my brother-in-law and combine and dig in the spring," Waller said.

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