A life-saving church social

It was a pleasant September morning in Meppel, the Netherlands, as church services came to a close. Henk Rous, 71, prepared to serve coffee to the other parishioners at the social gathering that followed the sermon. Volunteering at the church social was a weekly ritual that he and his wife Meta had enjoyed since his retirement.

However, this Sunday would turn out to be anything but routine. Shortly after starting the coffee service, Henk suddenly collapsed. As Meta realized what was happening with growing fear, a fellow churchgoer and retired pediatrician quickly took action, enlisting other parishioners to help. Henk, who was unresponsive and had no pulse, was suffering sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

A well-placed AED

Fortunately, there was a ZOLL AED Plus automated external defibrillator in the church.  As one parishioner ran to retrieve it, others started performing CPR. Once the AED arrived, they attached the pads and the AED recommended a shock to help restore a normal heart rhythm. Four volunteers took turns performing CPR until EMS arrived about 10 minutes later.

When Henk woke up later that day, he had no idea that he had suffered SCA. “I wondered where I was,” he says. “All I remember was serving coffee. I didn’t know what I was doing in the hospital.” Upon learning the details of his ordeal, Henk says, “I was lucky.”

While in the hospital, Henk received an ICD and did not suffer any neurological symptoms or damage from the SCA. Ten days later, he was able to return home.

“I had the fear of ‘This was it; it’s over,’ but now I have joy with the good outcome.”

He continues to work on improving his physical condition under the guidance of his cardiologist. Having suffered heart failure four years prior to his SCA, Henk understands the importance of heart-healthy lifestyle practices. “With physical therapy, I hope to get in shape soon,” he says. Asked what advice he would give to other SCA victims, Henk says, “Take it easy – learn to live with it, but don’t stop living. Try to enjoy life.”

Be prepared

To anyone who could potentially help save a life, Henk recommends: “Take a CPR course, know where to find an AED, and learn how to use it.” Because Henk’s fellow parishioners understood the importance of this advice, he is alive today to tell his story and encourage others to be prepared to save a life. Meta adds, “I had the fear of ‘This was it; it’s over,’ but now I have joy with the good outcome.”

Henk was fortunate to receive both lifesaving CPR and the defibrillating shock from the ZOLL AED within just a few minutes — in time to restore cardiac functionality and save his life. He and his family are truly grateful that the church had an AED and for the help he received.

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