The Call That Helped Save a Life

Just back from holiday, Russell Smith was looking forward to catching up with friends and neighbours at Mona Vale Golf Club in New South Wales. His townhouse strata was holding its annual general meeting there at 4:30 p.m. that afternoon.

A call from fellow member Mary Bryan at 4:15 p.m. alerted Russell that he was late. The meeting was meant to start at 4:00. Russell rushed out the door, hurrying to close the distance between his home and the club, normally a 2-minute walk.

When he reached the clubhouse, Russell headed to their usual meeting spot. But instead of calling the meeting to order, the members of the strata were startled into silence by a loud crash. They turned to see Russell collapsed on the floor.

People are scared of [AEDs], but there is absolutely nothing to be scared of. You do not need to know what you’re doing. You just need to put [the AED] on and it will tell you what to do.

Mary Bryan,
SCA rescuer

Members jump into action

“When he walked into the clubhouse, I had my back to him. We heard this thud and other people saw him fall. We all just thought he’d hit his head,” Mary recalls. She ran to Russell and found he was still breathing so she put him on his side in the recovery position.

Almost immediately, Russell stopped breathing and Mary couldn’t find a pulse. She quickly rolled him onto his back and began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), suspecting sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). “We’ve got a defib!” yelled club manager Simon King, running for the automated external defibrillator (AED).

Courage and persistence on full display

Mary and fellow club member Grant Shirdon attached the electrodes of the ZOLL® AED Plus® defibrillator to Russell’s chest. They continued CPR, following the prompts from the device and pausing when instructed so the defibrillator could deliver lifesaving shocks. Despite Mary’s repeated offers to assist, Grant pushed through the physical challenge of delivering compressions for a full 20 minutes before paramedics could reach them.

As paramedics were intubating Russell, the defibrillator began saying “No shock advised.” To everyone’s great relief, Russell began breathing on his own. Thanks to the foresight of Mona Vale, Mary and Grant had the tool they needed to give Russell high-quality CPR and six defibrillation shocks before paramedics arrived.

After an extensive series of tests at the local hospital, doctors found no blockages or other obvious reasons for Russell’s SCA. They recommended an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to safeguard against any future SCA episodes. After several weeks of recovery, Russell was back to his regular routine without any restrictions.

Russell Smith

From left to right: David Perkovic (ZOLL Sales Rep), Russell Smith, and Mary Bryan

Paying it forward

Russell plans to donate a ZOLL AED Plus to the townhouse complex to ensure even greater AED coverage for the community.

When asked about her experience during the rescue, Mary says, “At one point I was wondering if we were doing the right thing. And I thought, the machine’s telling us what to do now. And that’s the beauty of [AEDs]. People are scared of them, but there is absolutely nothing to be scared of. You do not need to know what you’re doing. You just need to put [the AED] on and it will tell you what to do.” Both Russell and Mary believe that training is important to help bystanders feel comfortable helping in an emergency. “Just to give people comfort, I would like our group to do some training,” says Mary.

Russell says he will forever be grateful to Mary for her phone call. “If I hadn’t gotten that phone call, I would have been in the house with [my wife] Robin. She had nothing to treat me with. She can’t lift me. The only thing she could do is dial 000, but I fear that by the time paramedics arrived, it might have been too late to save me,” says Russell. “That phone call saved my life.”

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