I Had the Sensation of Being Sucked Into the Earth

I Had the Sensation of Being Sucked Into the Earth

Bruce Benda, Pittsburgh, PA–52 at time of event (2014)

The old saw ‘ignorance is bliss’ applied when Hannah Benda, daughter of sudden cardiac arrest survivor Bruce Benda got word that her dad had suffered SCA at a golf outing at Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.

Hannah’s training as a physician’s assistant gave her insight as to the seriousness of her father’s condition. Her mother, Anne, on the other hand, wasn’t as aware of all the medical ramifications of her husband’s event until she spoke with Westmoreland Hospital’s ICU coordinator en route from her home in suburban Detroit where she was taking care of final arrangements before the family’s move to the Pittsburgh area.

"I was shocked,” Anne admitted in a recent interview, but I stayed calm. I’m actually quite good in a crisis.”

When the two women arrived at the hospital, they were filled in on the details of Bruce’s event. Bruce was attending a post-golfing cocktail party with about 40 or 50 colleagues and customers when, in his words, “I had the sensation of being sucked into the earth.” That is when Bruce lost consciousness and Rich Mallory, a colleague at Covestro-Bayer, where Bruce is the director of market development, used his long dormant skills in CPR to keep his friend alive. He and a Covestro customer, Jim Glattly, alternately applied the procedure for 15 minutes until paramedics arrived with an automated external defibrillator (AED.)

Shortly after Anne and Hannah arrived, Bruce arrested three more times before the medical team achieved the proper body temperature with the use of cardiac hypothermia. “It was pretty alarming,” Anne said later.

Bruce believes the moral to his story is twofold. The quick reaction of his two heroes and the excellent care he received from Westmoreland Hospital’s team of medical professionals made it possible for him to bounce back and return to his normal life.  

“My story ends well… because I got extraordinarily good care at Westmoreland Hospital,” he said.   

A third moral might be the cautionary tale that Bruce, like an alarming number of SCA victims, is a healthy, vibrant distance runner. He was training for his eighth marathon and, in his own words, “felt great” before his SCA. That will hopefully serve as a warning to others who are in similar shape not to ignore warning signs and have regular cardiac exams.

By A.J. Caliendo

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