AED Access for All

AED Access for All

Mary Tappe, West Des Moines, IA – 43 at time of event (2004)

Mary Tappe

On Monday, May 17, 2004 I was running late to a meeting at work. As I was sitting down, my friend Rick made a smart-alec comment about my being late, I gripped my pen, and BAM, my head hit the desk. My co-workers waited for me to sit up with a retort, but I didn’t. I was not breathing. I had no pulse.

I have come to know that what happened next is known as the Chain of Survival.
1) Terry called 911 – which is Step 1, Early Access to Care  
2) Bruce ran and got Marilyn, who came and immediately checked me for a pulse and realized that she needed to start CPR immediately. Both Marilyn and Pam began compressions and breaths. This is Step 2 – Early Access to CPR 
3) Sarah ran down to the 2nd floor and grabbed the AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) that had been purchased the year prior. As soon as the AED arrived at my side, it was hooked up to me and it advised a shock was needed. 2 shocks were delivered and my heart was basically restarted. This is Step 3- Early Defibrillation 
4) By this time, the West Des Moines EMS arrived and took over my care. I was taken to Mercy Medical Center where the doctors of Iowa Heart took over. This is Step 4 – Early Advanced Care

It was determined that I had a lethal arrhythmia and if not for the care I received by my co-workers, the EMS department and the doctors and hospital staff at the Iowa Heart Hospital – I wouldn’t be here today. Dr. Hoyt was able to recreate my arrhythmia in the Cardiac Cath Lab, and he implanted an Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (AICD).

The West Des Moines EMS department presented my co-workers with a Life Saver Award, and I was able to thank my heroes and Assistant Fire Chief Brian Helland for saving my life!

On October 12, 2005, while on a business trip and alone in my hotel room, I arrested again! This time, the AICD was there to save my life! It was very awe inspiring to know that I had pretty much died – TWICE – and survived. And as a software professional, the technology truly intrigued me and was very very impressive. However, the emotional toll was just as awesome. I sunk into a deep depression and didn’t understand why I was still alive, when the survival rate for SCA outside of a medical setting is only 5%!

Although it would make more sense to feel blessed, I just didn’t. Thankfully, I was part of an ICD Support group, and I was able to discuss my feelings with the only people who could understand, other survivors. In talking about this, we discussed how many of us had never heard of the Chain of Survival, or AEDs, or SCA or AICDs before our lives were touched by these things.

It was through these discussions that we decided to start a group that would speak out and educate the public on the need for AEDs, the frequency of SCA and also teach CPR and the Chain of Survival. That was the beginning of AED Access for All.


story edited by Jeremy  Whitehead

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The mission of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation is to prevent death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest. The vision of the SCA Foundation is to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and influence attitudinal and behavioral changes that will reduce mortality and morbidity from SCA.

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