My name is Mark Kendall, I am a 46-year-old father of four and my cardiac arrest occurred on a hot 100 plus degree Florida afternoon on April 22, 2015 in the parking lot of a pizza restaurant.
Without any warning at all, I went into cardiac arrest that day and collapsed onto the hot black asphalt where bystanders saw me go down and began to surround my then lifeless body. One bystander poured water on my face in an effort to revive me, thinking that maybe I had passed out because of the extreme heat that day, while another bystander called 911. During this time an investigator with the Orange County State Attorney's Office, Tony Dossett, was driving by when he saw the crowd of people gathering around my body, he drove across the center median to the parking lot and upon realizing I had no pulse, he began performing CPR and continued doing so for approximately 15 minutes before EMS arrived,
When Orange County EMS arrived on scene, Paramedic Cindy Berry continued to do CPR for another 15-20 minutes and I had to be shocked three times before I begin responding and a pulse was detected. They immediately then transported me to Orlando Regional Medical Center, whereupon arriving in Trauma Unit 5, I went into cardiac arrest a second time, this time for 13 minutes. Dr. Stephen Leech and the ER staff at ORMC successfully revived me yet a second time and had to shock me another three times. While this was happening, my co workers arrived at the ER where they were immediately taken into a private room. The door was closed and they were left alone for 30 minutes before medical staff came in to tell them I had been taken up to the cath lab. Their only question was, "Is he alive?"
The catheterization showed an ejection fraction of 25 percent. I was taken to ICU where they induced me into a coma and began the ARCTIC sun protocol, lowering my body temperature in an effort to reduce the risk of brain damage. My family members arrived and they were told that it was unknown if I would wake up at all and that if I did wake up, what the extent of brain damage would be.
Two days later, they advised my wife and sister that they were going to begin the warm up process the following day. My sister then called my ex-wife and mother of my two adult daughters, bringing them up to speed on what was happening and relaying the medical staff's message to be prepared to possibly have to say goodbye to me if I did not respond, and that the prognosis was not promising.
However, later that night later, and on my daughter Alana's 19th birthday, I began to wake up and respond to verbal commands, answering questions by either shaking or nodding my head. My daughter later referred to that day as "the best birthday ever" because she got to see her dad alive, awake and responding.
I spent two weeks in the hospital and was discharged with a St. Jude ICD in place. I remember nothing at all of the day of my SCA, nor the first six days in the hospital. I suffered two third-degree burns on my legs from when I was unconscious in the parking lot (that was estimated to have a temperature of about 130 degrees) for about 27 minutes, as Tony and the paramedics attempted to revive me.
Approximately six percent of cardiac arrest victims outside of the hospital environment survive. I am a part of that six percent because one person in that crowd knew CPR. It goes without saying that I am eternally grateful for Tony Dossett and his actions that day. Numerous people were standing around me, but no one knew CPR or what to do. Had it not been for Tony, I would not be alive today and my four children would be without a father.
I was able to meet Tony eight weeks after my incident. I learned that his son Damon was also an SCA survivor at the age of 21, when, like me, he was saved by a stranger who happened to be in the right place at the right time. I gave Tony a bright red Superman cape, because in my eyes and those of my children and family, he is a Superhero.
By Mark Kendall
Afterword: Mark Kendall passed away from cardiac arrest in January 2017.