“IT” happened 10 years ago tonight. Since I do not remember anything about “it,” I am still not sure “it” really happened.
Butch Gibbs can tell you that, with a little effort, big things can be done in small town America.
In 2003, Butch and his wife Susie, a registered nurse, applied for a grant from a federal agency that helps small, rural towns get necessary emergency medical equipment. As a result, their town of Humeston, Iowa—population 494—got a new automated external defibrillator (AED) to replace the community’s 15-year-old, outdated model. That was important since, according to Butch, “Humeston doesn’t have an ambulance…they are based at the hospitals in the county seats.” The nearest of those hospitals is a 20-minute drive from Humeston, so the town counts on their first response unit over which Butch and Susie preside.
Two months after the town received the life-saving device, both Gibbs’ were involved in a “save” of a cardiac arrest victim. Eight months after that, on April 2, 2004, Butch found himself on the other end of the little machine designed to shock a faulty heart back into rhythm.
Butch was acting in a community theater production when, near the end of a performance, he felt pain in his chest. But the show went on and so did Butch, still suffering chest pain. After driving the six blocks back to their home, Butch told Susie about his discomfort and, after getting a blood pressure reading of 70 over 40, she decided he needed to be in the hospital.
But soon after she called the ambulance to start the 22-mile journey to the Gibbs home, everything went black for Butch. “I stiffened up,” he says, relying as most survivors, on the accounts of those around him to tell the story. “My face got beet red and I went down.”
Susie immediately started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and daughter, Amy, called for the first response team and made sure the ambulance knew it was no longer a “chest pain” call---it was a “CPR in progress” call. Humeston’s non-transport EMS crew arrived and administered the first shock with the AED within four minutes. But Butch was anything but cooperative. His heart refused to keep a steady beat until no less than 22 shocks were administered. The ambulance arrived 20 minutes later. After paramedics gave him the cardiac drugs, Butch’s pulse came back to stay. He was then taken to a hospital in the next county before being air-lifted to a larger facility in Des Moines.
Now, along with teaching numerous CPR/AED classes to local groups, Butch & Susie have lobbied lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and Des Moines for funds to provide AEDs for rural areas where the arrival of an ambulance can be lengthy and for places where large groups of people gather. They helped raise money and obtain grants to purchase AEDs for all the school buildings and law enforcement cars in Wayne County and for other area locations, helped get a law passed requiring all students in Iowa schools to take a CPR class before they can graduate, and provided all the instruction to students and staff at their county’s schools.
“Susie and I believe there is a reason I survived,” said Gibbs. “That reason is to help spread awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and to show the importance of knowing how to do CPR and how to use an AED so that others may have the same chance that I did!”