Second Time, He's the One Saved

Second Time, He's the One Saved

Joe Farrell, San Francisco, CA – 56 at time of event (2008)

Joe Farrell

Joe knows CPR, as does his wife Edie. Most of his colleagues do as well. He is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, which requires CPR/AED professional training every two years to maintain licensure in the state of California. In August 2007, he saved a gentleman on the golf course in the Sierra Mountains. “You never think you’ll ever have to use those skills,” Joe said. “I knew exactly what to do.” he said with pride. “It was my first time, only time so far!”

What Joe should have said was this was his only time as a responder, because a year later he collapsed at a friend's house (it was a memorial dinner for a victim of cancer). His case was diagnosed as sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) at the local hospital emergency room. This time, his colleagues were the ones to use those same skills to save him.

“I was talking to ‘Edie, I’m going down!’ and I don’t remember anything for three or four days after that.”

One of the guests, a track coach from Rocklin High School, started CPR, while the others called 9-1-1. The home was only four blocks from the fire station and the paramedics arrived in minutes to shock his heart back into rhythm. He went in SCA again in the hospital ER, which required further defibrillation to restore normal cardiac rhythm.

“I was not one of those that came out, just woke up, after being shocked,” Joe explained. He was in a coma throughout his ordeal. He was also placed in therapeutic hypothermia to protect his brain and organs.

When Joe was lying in the ICU, Edie struggled with the situation. She was lucky to have one of their best friends in the room with her, and said to him, “I don’t think he’s going to make it.”

John replied, “Edie, Joe never gives up! I’ve known Joe Farrell a long time and I’ve never, ever seen him give up. He doesn’t want to die.”

That was the truth, Joe is a survivor. He investigated this through a book “The Survivors Club”, that a journalist, Ben Sherwood, created to help people understand overcoming adversity and beating the odds. He feels so sure of this “survival personality” that he recommends it to all the survivors he meets. It could help in the recovery process.

“It took me a month for my brain to fully recover!” Joe said in reflection. When attempting to understand what and why and how, he found that he wasn’t as mentally quick as he used to be. But one thing he was sure of was the need to be protected against the deadly arrhythmia. His cardiologist suggested that he return home to have an ICD inserted in his chest as insurance against another arrhythmia that could lead to SCA. Joe and Edie decided Joe should change cardiologists due to differing preferences in care. They agreed that he should have the ICD implanted prior to discharge from the hospital.

Joe recovered fully and hasn’t been able to find out exactly why he suffered a cardiac arrest that evening. There are hypotheses, and yet his ejection fraction returned to normal and he has no cardiac muscle damage.

“Everything is very normal [now]. My medications have been decreased,” Joe said with relief. He had not enjoyed the beta blocker drugs. “I’m so glad to be off those! I was very tired all the time, and frustrated that I couldn’t get my heart rate above 80 when I walk or ride my mountain bike. And I got cold all the time, it could be 70 out and I’d be freezing.”

-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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