High-tech AED with special lifesaving features coming to Park

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 20, 2021

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GROSSE POINTE PARK — A piece of cutting-edge technology played a critical role in saving the life of Grosse Pointe Park Public Safety Lt. Terry Hays and enabled him to get treatment so quickly, he returned to his physically demanding job less than a month later.

And now, that same piece of equipment is coming to Grosse Pointe Park, where it will be added to the city’s ambulance.

The Zoll X Series is a combination cardiac monitor, AED and vital signs instrument with a 12-lead EKG that uses Bluetooth technology to transmit crucial information in real time to the emergency room doctor, including views of all sides of the heart, Park Public Safety Director Bryan Jarrell explained. This enables the hospital emergency room to activate the cardiac catheterization lab team so they can prepare to receive and treat a possible heart attack victim as soon as that patient reaches the hospital, rather than having to wait for a diagnosis in the ER. The machine can be programmed to check vital signs at specific intervals, showing blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen level and respiratory rate.

At a meeting Nov. 8 via Zoom, the Park City Council voted unanimously in favor of the $29,000 purchase.

At press time, Jarrell said the Zoll AED had been ordered and they hoped to get it in December.

Reducing the wait time for treatment saves heart muscle, which dies off when it’s starved of oxygen.

“Once cardiac muscle dies, it stays dead,” Jarrell said. 

Jarrell saw this firsthand when his own father suffered a heart attack and lost 60% of his heart muscle as a result of this wait time. Jarrell said his father was never the same and couldn’t do many of the things he had done before his heart attack.

The same — or worse — could have easily been the result for Hays. Hays was camping with his family at the KOA in rural Emmett Township, Michigan, on Aug. 11 when he started feeling “a little out of sorts” after taking sons Henry, 7, and T.J. “Terry,” 9, to the restroom after dinner. 

“I couldn’t put my finger on it,” said Hays, who started getting sweaty and nauseous. 

Then came the chest pain.

“I hurt more than I ever could imagine,” said Hays, a 46-year-old who works out regularly and has never had high blood pressure or cholesterol. His wife, Kristen, a nurse, immediately called 911. One of the last things he remembers was seeing his older son on his knees outside the cabin, praying for him.

“I’ve taken many people to the hospital, and I know (what happens). I’m looking at my family on the porch thinking this might be the last time I ever see them,” said Hays, choking up at the memory.

But in tiny Emmett, they had a Zoll Series AED on the ambulance, which corresponded directly with the hospital so that the cath team could assemble before Hays’ arrival and rush him into surgery to put in a stent.

Hays later learned that he had experienced a “widow-maker” heart attack that typically has only a 12% survival rate. He said his left anterior descending artery was 95% blocked.

“I believe it was that machine, along with the person operating the machine, that saved my life,” Hays said.

Because he was treated so quickly — even though it took about 25 to 30 minutes to get from the campground to the hospital — Hays was out of the hospital within three days and back to work three weeks later.

In retrospect, Hays realizes his circumstances put him at greater risk of a heart attack. His grandfather had a heart attack in his 30s and an uncle suffered a heart attack at only 42. And the last couple of years have been exceptionally stressful for the Hays family: Kristen, who was treating COVID patients in the hospital at the beginning of the pandemic, was struck by COVID herself in early 2020. After she recovered, Hays said Henry started having leg pains and doctors discovered a cancerous tumor on his kidney. Hays said his wife has been on leave from her job since then because of the vigorous treatment regimen Henry is on. His son’s treatment is expected to take two years, Hays said.

“He truly is a warrior,” Hays said of his son.

Hays’ experience with the Zoll Series AED was “the catalyst” for the city’s acquisition of one. 

“It’s great that we’re getting it,” Hays said. “It’s going to help a lot of people. We’re always looking to improve service.”

He said the Park provides its own ambulatory service to residents rather than contracting it out.

“Residents prefer friendly (familiar) faces, and the response time is incredible,” Hays said.

Although salt is out and Hays is on a largely Mediterranean diet these days, he’s back to running and working out, and he feels like himself again. The speed at which he was able to get a stent means that his heart sustained only minimal damage. Hays is happy Park residents and visitors will now be able to benefit from the same lifesaving technology.

“It’s going to be a huge benefit for the residents in getting them the care they need in a timely manner,” he said.

In addition to the Zoll X Series cardiac monitor/AED, the Park recently purchased new regular AEDs for the city, including one for Patterson Park, where they hadn’t had one before, Jarrell said. There are also AEDs in several other locations, including two at Windmill Pointe Park and one at Grosse Pointe Park Municipal Court, Jarrell said.

“They were all beyond their useful life and were no longer serviceable,” Jarrell said of the old AEDs. 

The Zoll Series AED is built to withstand punishing conditions.

“It’s very rugged,” Jarrell said. “It was designed for military use.”

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