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Defibrillator At Meridian Lanes Credited With Helping Save Young Man's Life

Defibrillator at Meridian Lanes credited with helping save young man's life

An automated external defibrillator (AED) was installed at Meridian Lanes last summer and used earlier this year to help save a young man experiencing a deadly heart rhythm. (Photo: Holly Beech/MP)

When Rick West was bowling at Meridian Lanes in February, he noticed commotion several lanes away.

“There was a bunch of people standing around somebody on the floor, and all I could see was the feet,” he said.

West, a St. Luke’s flight medic with 40 years’ experience as a paramedic, rushed over. He expected to find a fellow bowler on the senior league who had fallen, but the victim was in his early 20s.

West, who knew the young man and his family, pushed through the crowd to evaluate him. The young man was unconscious, hardly breathing and losing color.

“I said, ‘It looks like he’s dead,’” West recalls. “Like, this can’t be. A 22-year-old who’s gone into cardiac arrest? What’s going on?”

Someone called 911, and West started chest compressions on the victim. A nurse and a surgical assistant who were also bowling at the time jumped in to help, Meridian Lanes General Manager Mike Connelly said. They set up the automated external defibrillator, or AED, that hung on the wall.

That little device helped save the young man’s life, West said.

The victim declined to comment for this story.

The purpose of an AED is to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm during cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is not the same thing as a heart attack, though a heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest.

A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage that stops blood flow to the heart. A victim might experience gradual symptoms for days or weeks, such as chest discomfort and shortness of breath, according to the American Heart Association.

A cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating properly because of a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system. This causes life-threatening heart rhythms, such as ventricular fibrillation, when the heart quivers instead of pumps, West said.

“It’s called a defibrillator because you’re trying to stop the bad electrical activity,” he said.

Connelly said he had thought about installing an AED for a long time and finally did so last summer.

“The biggest reason for getting it was because of the number of elderly people who bowl here,” he said. “A 22-year-old kid was not the one that I ever assumed we would be using it on.

“I was extremely glad we had it,” Connelly added. “Otherwise, he wouldn’t be here.”

West said the nurse set up the AED as he continued CPR on the young man. The AED walks the user through each step, so even those without a medical background can use it effectively.

“They’re designed for the general public,” West said. “Once you open the case and you turn it on, it gives you exact instructions on what to do.”

The AED shows the user where to place the sticky shock pads on the victim’s chest. It then checks the victim’s heart pattern to make sure it’s a shockable rhythm.

Not everyone suffering from a heart incident would benefit from an electrical shock — only those experiencing certain heart rhythms caused by an electrical problem in the heart.

An AED should not be used on someone who is awake or has a pulse, West said.

Most AED models won’t even administer a shock when a pulse is present, so the user isn’t left second-guessing, said Jon Westermeier, a medical salesman for Norco in Meridian, which supplied Meridian Lanes with its AED.

If the device does sense a shockable heart rhythm, it instructs the user to step away from the victim and to press a button that delivers an electrical shock to the victim’s chest, West said.

After one shock and a few rounds of chest compressions, the young man at the bowling alley started to breathe normally again, West said. This all happened before emergency responders arrived.

A person experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest could die within minutes if not treated quickly, according to the heart association. That’s why AEDs are designed to be user-friendly, so the general public can help a cardiac arrest victim in the crucial minutes before paramedics arrive.

“All businesses should probably have an AED in their business somewhere if they have any significant number of people around — and bowling alleys certainly fall into that category, especially with a lot of elderly bowlers,” West said.

“It’s really unusual for a 22-year-old to go down like that, but in this case, the AED saved his life, along with the CPR.”

West is used to helping people in crisis moments, but the incident at the bowling alley was even more challenging because he knew the victim and had bowled with his dad on and off for years, he said.

“So that makes it more difficult, when you’re standing there looking at this kid on the floor,” he said. “You just do what you got to do, and then you worry about it later.”

West said he’s not sure what caused the cardiac arrest, but thankfully the young man survived the incident and is back bowling.

“I felt gratification based on the fact that when he went out of the bowling alley on the EMS stretcher, he was awake and he was talking to his mom and his dad, who were walking next to him,” West said.


Awareness about AEDs is growing in the national and local spotlight. “Biggest Loser” host and fitness trainer Bob Harper suffered a cardiac arrest and a heart attack at a gym in February, according to CNN. He’s speaking out about how an AED helped save his life.

At the end of March, public safety agencies in Ada County started using a program called PulsePoint. Individuals who are trained in CPR are encouraged to download the PulsePoint app on their phones. When a 911 call comes in about a cardiac arrest, the dispatch center can send out an alert to PulsePoint users in that area. The app will show users where the cardiac arrest victim is and where to find the nearest AED. Alerts are only used when the cardiac arrest takes place in public, not in a residence.

“Having help arrive on scene even before first responders can make a big impact on the outcome of the patient,” Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan stated last month.

In 2015, the city of Meridian installed almost 40 AEDs in police cars, fire trucks and parks.

Businesses can also buy and install AEDs online or from places like Norco. The device runs from roughly $800 to $2,000, Westermeier with Norco said. The battery must be replaced every five years for about $150, he said, and the pads, regardless of use, must be replaced every two years for about $40.

When Norco sells an AED, it also provides training for the business’ employees on how to use it, even though the device can easily be used without training, he said.

Connelly said Meridian Lanes bought its AED from Norco for about $1,200 to $1,300. He had his staff go through the roughly 15-minute training so they would feel comfortable using the device.

“You put the pads on, and it will tell you ‘deliver shock to patient,’ so it lets you know if it’s safe to push the button,” Westermeier said. “It lets you know if the pads are placed incorrectly. ... It guides you right through, step by step.”

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