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Mari Ann Wearda
Mari Ann Wearda

I did not have a diagnosed heart condition and my blood pressure was normal. I had never experienced chest pain or shortness of breath, but on the morning of July 26, 2002, I had a sudden cardiac arrest.

As I pulled up to the stoplight at the intersection of Highways 3 and 65 in Hampton, Iowa, my heart went into ventricular fibrillation--a lethal arrhythmia characterized by rapid, chaotic quivering of the heart.

My heart was no longer pumping. I lost consciousness and slumped over the steering wheel of my car. It drifted across two lanes of the busy highway, climbed the curb, knocked over a sign and came to rest against a tree in a front yard.

There were only a precious four minutes before my brain could be permanently damaged and then only a few more minutes before I would die. I am one of the lucky people who survived because I live in a community where law enforcement officers carry an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED).

      Click here to read the rest of Mari Ann's story.
Dustin Medearis
Dustin Medearis
Dustin was playing baseball on the freshman team for East High School in Des Moines, Iowa. He had made the team as an 8th grader, and was 14 at the time. On June 15th of 2006 East was playing Ottumwa. It was the 7th inning, and they had Dustin pinch hitting. He squared off to bunt, and the pitch hit him in the heart area at the exact time the heart just took a beat, which caused his heart to stop (Commotio Cordis; blunt force trauma to the heart). He jogged down to first base where he collapsed with no heart beat, and no pulse. Thankfully, in our stands we had a nurse (Marlana Laird) from our team, and 2 members from Ottumwa's Fire Department as well as trained First Responders (Tony Miller & Doug Overturf) from Ottumwa's team, who knew what to do. Tony started CPR, and Marlana started mouth-to-mouth, while Doug kept Dustin's airway open with the chin lift. The school had an AED, but it was locked up in the football stadium at the time.
The ambulance arrived about 5 minutes later, and had to shock Dustin 2 times to get his heart beating again. Once they got his heart beating they took him to Blank Childrens Hospital where he spent about 36 hours in intensive care.
If it was not for those 3 wonderful people, who I will always look at as Hereos, and the ambulance being less then 5 minutes away, Dustin would not be here today. It's a miracle he lived and was back playing baseball 2 weeks later. Now he wears a chest guard at all times when playing ball.
Rhonda Medearis (Dustin's Mom)
Mary Tappe
Mary Tappe
On Monday, May 17, 2004 I was running late to a meeting at work. As I was sitting down, my friend Rick made a smart-alec comment about my being late, I gripped my pen, and BAM, my head hit the desk. My co-workers waited for me to sit up with a retort, but I didn’t. I was not breathing. I had no pulse. I have come to know that what happened next is known as the Chain of Survival.

1) Terry called 911 – which is Step 1, Early Access to Care
2) Bruce ran and got Marilyn, who came and immediately checked me for a pulse and realized that she needed to start CPR immediately. Both Marilyn and Pam began compressions and breaths. This is Step 2 – Early Access to CPR
3) Sarah ran down to the 2nd floor and grabbed the AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) that had been purchased the year prior. As soon as the AED arrived at my side, it was hooked up to me and it advised a shock was needed. 2 shocks were delivered and my heart was basically restarted. This is Step 3- Early Defibrillation
4) By this time, the West Des Moines EMS arrived and took over my care. I was taken to Mercy Medical Center where the doctors of Iowa Heart took over. This is Step 4 – Early Advanced Care

It was determined that I had a lethal arrhythmia and if not for the care I received by my co-workers, the EMS department and the doctors and hospital staff at the Iowa Heart Hospital – I wouldn’t be here today. Dr. Hoyt was able to recreate my arrhythmia in the Cardiac Cath Lab, and he implanted an Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (AICD).

The West Des Moines EMS department presented my co-workers with a Life Saver Award, and I was able to thank my heroes and Assistant Fire Chief Brian Helland for saving my life!

On October 12, 2005, while on a business trip and alone in my hotel room, I arrested again! This time, the AICD was there to save my life!

It was very awe inspiring to know that I had pretty much died – TWICE – and survived. And as a software professional, the technology truly intrigued me and was very very impressive. However, the emotional toll was just as awesome. I sunk into a deep depression and didn’t understand why I was still alive, when the survival rate for SCA outside of a medical setting is only 5%! Although it would make more sense to feel blessed, I just didn’t. Thankfully, I was part of an ICD Support group, and I was able to discuss my feelings with the only people who could understand, other survivors. In talking about this, we discussed how many of us had never heard of the Chain of Survival, or AEDs, or SCA or AICDs before our lives were touched by these things. It was through these discussions that we decided to start a group that would speak out and educate the public on the need for AEDs, the frequency of SCA and also teach CPR and the Chain of Survival. That was the beginning of AED Access for All.
Butch  Gibbs
Butch Gibbs

Butch Gibbs feels he is probably one of the few people who have been on both ends of a defibrillator - both as a rescuer and a patient! Butch is a member of the Humeston First Responders, where he serves with his wife, Susie, as Co-President. The First Responders are an area volunteer group who assist residents in medical emergencies until an ambulance can arrive. In May, 2003, the Humeston First Responders received an AED to replace an older one. Susie was instrumental in obtaining the grant which was used to purchase it. The new AED was first used on July 27, 2003, when it saved the life of a Humeston man. Butch & Susie were a part of that first "save"- not ever imagining what was to happen less than a year later. On April 2, 2004, Butch became the second AED "save."  


         Click here to see Butch's life affirming pictures!

John Laktash
John Laktash

My Name is John Laktash I'm 38 in real life and 6 in my new life, I was born in Barberton, OH in 1967 with a congenital Heart defect called Tetrology of Falot, It is a condition where 4 parts of the heart are affected and the only help is Open Heart Surgery. At the age of 3 months I had a Blalock Shunt and at the age of 4 years old I had my first Open heart surgery. Things went very successful and my family moved to Des Moines, Iowa in 1972, not too long after my Open heart.

Growing up was a little bit of a challenge because I couldn't keep up with the other kids and I couldn't play contact sports, however my parents pretty much let me live my life without restrictions. At the age of 23 while working out at the gym I felt my heart racing, after much debate I finally came to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines and sitting up talking to the Nurse she issued a code Blue on me(to my surprise), My heart was beating at 260 beats per minute and I had sustained this for several hours before arriving! 


         Click here to see John's life affirming pictures!

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