Fortitude And Passion Put To The Test

At 74, Joop Galama felt pretty invincible. He really had no reason to suspect otherwise. A healthy, active retired mechanical engineer, Joop bikes and walks up to 100 kilometers several times a week. He also finds time to ice skate, hike, and work in his garden regularly. He takes no medication and is in great shape.

Joop and his wife Tine are passionate about being heart safe. Joop serves on the board of an organization in the Netherlands that supports heart health by maintaining a network of publicly accessible automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in the towns of Lingewaard and Overbetuwe and by training ordinary citizens in CPR and AED use. Joop bicycles hundreds of kilometers each week to check on the network of AEDs to ensure they’re ready when needed and Tine teaches volunteers how to administer CPR and use an AED.

One summer afternoon, Joop did some gardening and then made dinner for himself and Tine, who was teaching a CPR class later that evening. Around 8:30 p.m., he walked the 2 kilometers to Tine’s class to help clean up and began packing away CPR manikins. Without any warning, Joop dropped to his knees and then fell onto his back where he laid unresponsive.

Training and reality converge

Suddenly, Tine saw firsthand the signs she spent so many hours teaching others to recognize. She suspected Joop was suffering from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) so she and one of the students ran for the ZOLL® AED that hangs on a nearby wall. Another student called for emergency services.

Tine opened the ZOLL AED 3® and quickly attached the electrodes to Joop’s chest. The AED analyzed his heart, recommending a defibrillating shock. Tine delivered CPR, listening to the feedback from the AED to ensure Joop received the highest quality CPR possible. A civilian aid worker was on scene shortly and within minutes first responders arrived to provide additional lifesaving measures.

While first responders in the Netherlands usually arrive within 4 to 6 minutes, Tine had the electrodes on my chest shortly after a minute.

Joop Galama,
SCA survivor

Neither Tine nor her students expected hands-on practice with a real-life SCA event that evening. Due to the extensive network of publicly accessible AEDs in Lingewaard and Overbetuwe, a civilian aid worker can usually deliver an AED to an emergency call within six minutes. Joop’s SCA occurred right in the midst of those teaching and learning how to respond to such an event.

In the ambulance, Joop briefly regained consciousness and heard Tine say, “There you are again.” But he drifted back out of consciousness until he awoke later in the hospital. Joop has no memory of the event. “I greeted the students and suddenly felt very dizzy. After that, I don’t remember a thing,” Joop explains.

Doctors couldn’t find a reason for Joop’s sudden cardiac arrest. He was prescribed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) with a pacemaker function to monitor and help regulate his heart rhythm. “I could grow old with that,” Joop says.

Tine and Joop Gamala

Tine and Joop Galama

Faith confirmed

Joop’s story shows how sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone. “I thought I was strong and invincible. And then I thought, wow, I wasn’t that invincible after all,” Joop explains. This experience has reinforced his passion for the work he and Tine do. They want everyone to know what happened to him and how Tine and her students helped save his life with an AED.

Joop likes to ask people, “Can you resuscitate your neighbor, and can your neighbor resuscitate you?” Knowing how to respond to an SCA means that CPR can be started almost immediately by ordinary citizens while waiting for emergency responders to arrive. “While first responders in the Netherlands usually arrive within 4 to 6 minutes,” Joop explains, “Tine had the electrodes on my chest shortly after a minute.” He’s immensely grateful that precious time was not lost waiting for help to arrive.

And thanks to Tine and her students, Joop has settled back into his regular routine. “I’m busy in the garden again,” Joop says. “I’m also busy checking and installing AEDs.”

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