Alastair Ruddick, Ponoka, Alberta Canada – 54 at time of event (2009)
Alastair and his brother, John, own a sports lounge and it was time that Wednesday evening to get a game up on the big screen. Bill was standing next to Alastair as they were looking for a hockey game on the TV. That’s when it happened.
“My brother said I took a depth breath, then a sigh, and just fell over dead!” Alastair related. “[He] called 9-1-1 while Bill ‘stood there and shook like a little girl’."
Within what seemed like seconds two EMTs arrived and began CPR. They had been at the gym next door and heard the call come in on their radios. They beat the ambulance by minutes!
“The paramedics in this town are fitness freaks, you can go by that gym any day of the week and you’ll see an ambulance sitting there!” Alastair related that the EMTs are always attending the gym and so it wasn’t surprising they arrived so quickly.
“Anything I [say] has been related to me, because I don’t remember anything about that day and for about two and a half days after that!” Alastair said with conviction. “They had to zap me four times. The reason I know that is because I know the paramedic!”
Alastair underwent hypothermia treatment in the field, and was transported to Ponoka General Hospital where he promptly arrested again.
“They were going to take [me in] the air ambulance to Edmonton, which is about sixty miles away, but it was really terrible weather, snowing and blowing and stuff. So they took me up in the ground ambulance and Jeff the driver said I started coming out of it. So they thought there might be a little bit of hope!” Alastair recalled.
“I was sedated and placed in a bariatric chamber* for two days.” Alastair said he remembers waking up, “When I came out of it, I saw my brother, my brother-in-law, and sister and thought ‘What the hell happened to me’.” That Sunday afternoon is hard for him to forget. And brother John doesn’t let him forget that Wednesday afternoon either!
“He’s eight years younger than me and he’s had three heart attacks,” so John’s teasing doesn’t strike home. “[He had the plumbing problem,] I had the electrical problem, I shorted out!” Alastair declared.
Apart from high blood pressure, Alastair had no preexisting conditions, and to this day he hasn’t been told why he went into ventricular fibrillation. He did smoke two packs a day, but has since quit.
”That’s the worst thing you can ever do for your body, is smoking!” Alastair exclaimed.
Four days before Christmas Alastair had an ICD implanted in his chest. “I had a dream that my ICD went off. I didn’t know if it was a dream or it really happened! But it’s never gone off,” Alastair said of his Boston Scientific device. “If it wasn’t for technology there are a lot of us who wouldn’t be here.”
Oh, and that gym had been a furniture store just six months earlier, and most likely the paramedics “would have taken four or five minutes to get there,” according to Alastair, reducing his chances of survival.
“I made it through the worst part,” Alastair says of his cardiac arrest and life with an ICD.
-Jeremy Whitehead* Known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), it provides an environment with a high concentration of oxygen to help overcome the hypoxia associated with cardiac arrest.