A life saved at the shore

Had it not been for J.R. Bourne’s dog running around Home Depot that morning, things might have turned out much differently.

J.R. Bourne is pretty fit at age 40. He has competed in triathlons and works in sports marketing for the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour. Lately, however, the Jacksonville Beach resident hasn’t been motivated to do anything but run, and he’s been doing it less frequently because of back pain. On one fateful Saturday morning, J.R. decided to meet his friend Luis to kick a soccer ball around on the beach instead of running by himself in the humid Florida heat.

Before heading out to the beach, he decided to drive over to the hardware store to pick up a few items with his Lab mix puppy, Tiago, in tow. Home Depot is pet friendly and Tiago is as social as they come. At the store, Tiago kept running around J.R., causing him to keep doubling back again and again, forgetting why he was in each aisle. The delay caused J.R. to get to the beach later than planned.

Quick response and a team effort

Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue was just setting up the lifeguard towers when they heard a woman yell for help. Lifeguard Sam (Samantha) Peters saw that a man was down and was the first lifeguard to reach J.R. and Luis. One bystander had already started CPR while another person called 911. Sam confirmed that J.R. had no pulse and then took over the CPR.

Senior lifeguard Ross Ghiotto, who is also a firefighter and paramedic for Jacksonville Fire & Rescue, knew the best chance of regaining a pulse was with an AED. He grabbed the ZOLL AED Plus® defibrillator off the back of the lifeguard truck, turned on the unit, and attached the pads to J.R. while Sam continued compressions.

Gordon (Gordy) Van Dusen, another senior lifeguard and a paramedic student, began to provide oxygen and also provided CPR. Three other members of the squad arrived from the main station, began controlling the crowd that had started to grow, and took turns administering CPR.

Gordy pushed the Shock button as the unit advised and the AED Plus delivered the first shock. J.R. jolted up, spoke in slurred words, abruptly started ripping off the electrodes, then collapsed again. In that moment of consciousness, among the chaos, he says he remembers hearing a woman shout in prayer, “Jesus…saave thiis maaan! Save this man’s life! Please God, save him.”

“The AED Plus walked us through the lifesaving steps at a most chaotic time. After two shocks, we were able to restart J.R.’s heart.”

– Gordon Van Dusen, Senior Lifeguard

After a few more cycles of CPR from the lifeguards, a second shock was administered to J.R.’s lifeless body and his heart was restarted. They kept him on oxygen and placed him on a backboard, rushing him to a waiting ambulance for transport to the hospital. By the time J.R. reached the ambulance, he was awake and answering questions posed by the emergency rescue team.

In the six years Gordy has been with Ocean Rescue, this was the first time he actually did CPR and used an AED. Mostly, the lifeguards treat heat exhaustion, locate lost children, and oversee swimming beachgoers.

“While we are trained and do drills on the beach every morning before heading out, we experienced firsthand the value of knowing CPR and how to use an AED,” said Gordy. “The AED Plus walked us through the lifesaving steps at a most chaotic time. After two shocks, we were able to restart J.R.’s heart.”

J.R. Bourne (center) flanked by two of his lifeguard rescuers, Gordy Van Dusen (left) and Ross Ghiotto (right).

Sam echoed Gordy’s sentiments, “I’m always on my whistle warning of bad rip currents and trying to steer toddlers away from the tide pools. I’ve never had to use an AED before, and this one definitely proved its value with its real-time feedback that told us what to do.”Ross called the AED Plus “foolproof.” “There’s not a lot to it since the AED tells you what to do. We used it on J.R. with hardly any downtime.”Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue has five ZOLL AED Plus units, one for each section of beach and one for the lifeguard station. Daily checks are performed to make sure they are working in the event they are needed.

As for J.R., six hours after the incident, he was at the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville undergoing surgery. His cardiologist stopped by his room to tell him that on a scale of 1 to 10, his luck was a 30 that day. He was eventually diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and treated with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD).

And it didn’t take long before J.R. realized how much of his luck could be attributed to Tiago. If Tiago hadn’t delayed his shopping, J.R. would have arrived at the beach before the lifeguards, and no AED would have been available. Tiago was the first link in the Chain of Survival, but the true credit needs to go to the lifeguards of Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue for their swift, timely action and training. These dedicated individuals are all part of the American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps, which has been protecting Jacksonville beachgoers since 1912.

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