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AEDs Save Man's Life Twice

March 20, 2012, 6:11 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

AEDs Save Man's Life Twice

As the number one killer in America, sudden cardiac arrest has had an impact on many.  But with AEDs becoming more available, health officials hope more deaths will be prevented.

Tom O'Hara served with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue for more than 32 years. During that time, he helped save many lives, including people who were suffering from cardiac arrest.

"If you were lucky, they survived; if you weren't, they didn't.  But, I must have been on 100 calls at least where I actually physically did CPR. Towards the end of my career we started getting AEDs," O'Hara said.

But O'Hara never thought he, himself, would be in the same situation, wearing a different hat.  In December O'Hara woke up with chest pain. He made it to the bathroom before he collapsed.

"My daughter, who lives next door, is CPR-trained. They gave me artificial respirations and chest compressions," O'Hara said.

Within minutes, authorities arrived with an AED to restore his normal heart rhythm.

"Simply put, without the defibrillator, I wouldn't be here, or without the police department, fire rescue and the ambulance; I'm eternally grateful," O'Hara said.

O'Hara is not just grateful for having his life saved once, but twice. He went through a similar experience six years earlier.

"I actually had different symptoms each time. The first time was indigestion, so, I told my wife 'we have to go to the hospital.' We did, and I actually went into cardiac arrest in the emergency room in the hospital," O'Hara said.

O'Hara is not alone. Health officials believe one life has been saved every month because of a program through Avera Heart Hospital and Sioux Falls Fire Rescue to buy AEDs.

"Over a ten-year period of time, we have a save a month. That's a lot of people who we've saved who probably wouldn't have been saved otherwise," Avera Heart Hospital President and CEO Jon Soderholm said.

And O'Hara says he's glad he's one of the lucky ones, so he can enjoy experiences, like the birth of his first grandchild.

"My cardiologist says pretty much everything fell into place for me at the right time. As far as lucky goes, how lucky can you be, when you get your life saved?" O'Hara said

The AED clinic is tomorrow and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Avera Heart Hospital lobby.

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