Community Response in the Netherlands

In the village of Westerhaar in The Netherlands, Gé and Joke Jager are enjoying retirement. Since Gé left his job with the local municipality, he spends his free time gardening and being outdoors. He’s an avid collector who can frequently be found hunting for old radios or rare vinyl records at antique shops. Life experience has taught Gé to relish every chance he has to do the things he enjoys most.

This view comes from life experience, not the least of which involved a recent health scare. One afternoon, Gé experienced shortness of breath and what he refers to as “unpleasantness” in his chest. He reached out to his cardiologist who ordered some tests. “Because I had these symptoms many times before, I thought they would subside, which they eventually did,” recalls Gé.

From peaceful to panicked

Gé and Joke enjoyed a relaxing day visiting neighbors and relatives and Gé spent some time working on his hobbies. After a bit of television and a cup of coffee, they retired for the evening.

Just after they laid down to sleep, Joke noticed that something wasn’t quite right with Gé.

Luckily, she recognised the symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and quickly called 112 for emergency services. The operator notified HartslagNu, a network of volunteer civilian emergency responders, dispatched an ambulance to Joke and Gé’s home, and kept Joke on the phone to gather more information about Gé’s condition.

“Without an AED, you can’t help someone get out of a cardiac arrhythmia, and then it may be too late.”

Gé Jager,
sudden cardiac arrest survivor

An urgent late-night request

Peter Schepers was taking his dog for a quick walk before retiring for the evening when he received a call from HartslagNu asking him to bring a publicly accessible automated external defibrillator (AED) to Gé and Joke’s home. “I always keep the AED in the back of my car, so I didn’t have to [go] pick it up,” he says.

Looking forward with optimism

Peter arrived to find Joke outside by the front door, anxiously awaiting emergency services. “I quickly rushed upstairs with the ZOLL® AED and saw him lying there on the bed, gasping. His color was gray,” Peter recalls. As he realised that Gé could be experiencing symptoms of SCA, two additional volunteer civilian responders, also notified by HartslagNu, came rushing upstairs. They worked together to quickly help Gé onto the floor. Peter exposed Ge’s chest and applied the electrodes from the ZOLL AED 3® defibrillator while another volunteer civilian responder began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) compressions.

The AED analysed Ge’s heart and recommended a defibrillating shock. Following the guidance from the ZOLL AED 3 defibrillator, Peter alerted his partner to stop CPR and then pressed the shock button. The volunteer rescuers followed the AED audio and visual instructions to continue CPR. Peter used the bag-valve-mask he keeps in his car to deliver manual breaths following every 30th compression.

When the first ambulance arrived on scene, emergency medical workers took over and put Gé on a ZOLL AutoPulse® mechanical CPR device to ensure continuous CPR while they determined the safest way to get him to the waiting ambulance. First responders moved Gé out a bedroom window to a cockpit stretcher in a ladder truck from the local fire department.

Gé suffered a second SCA in the hospital and required an additional shock. Doctors in the ICU determined that he needed stents and an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). Following an operation and short stay in the hospital, Gé was released.

Left to right: Peter Schepers (rescuer) and Gé Jager (survivor)

Left to right: Peter Schepers (rescuer) and Gé Jager (survivor).

Newfound awareness

Gé has returned to his hobbies, as well as cycling and walking — and is feeling better than before his SCA. “Stay confident in yourself and enjoy life and your surroundings,” Gé advises others.

Now that he’s been personally impacted by SCA, Gé has a much better understanding of — and wholeheartedly supports — the mission of HartslagNu: To ensure that citizens in The Netherlands are always within 6 minutes of an AED and that volunteer civilian responders trained to use AEDs are available at all hours.

“Sign up for a CPR course and sign up with HartslagNu. And when you get a call to pick up an AED, pick it up immediately and go directly to the victim with it. Because without an AED, you can’t help someone get out of a cardiac arrhythmia, and then it may be too late,” says Gé.

Gé feels it’s vital to recognise and thank the volunteers who came to his aid. “They committed themselves on their own time at a late hour in the evening to resuscitate me. That’s not nothing! It can even be very confrontational or scary for them. But they do it. I am eternally grateful to all those people!”

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