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Lucky Dog

Written by Mike Nolen —

More than once it has struck me that what happened to me last fall probably wasn’t just dumb luck. Although with the Irish surname of Nolen, luck wouldn’t be entirely out of the realm of possibilities.

I had what was classified as AMI, acute myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack. It rapidly progressed to full cardiac arrest. I guess that means I died. It was just for a while. Brief enough that I didn’t see any beckoning lights or have an out of body experience. I was in a tough spot; conked out on the side of the road in rural North Fork. But I was lucky.

I was lucky that this didn’t happen two weeks earlier when I was cycling by myself, up the Mammoth Pool road past Mile High overlook. Chance of survival — zero percent. No, instead I was in the “foothills of rural California,” which gave me about a 7 percent chance for survival of a cardiac arrest with limited assistance. 7 percent, not bad, we buy lottery tickets with less chance of winning but winning some money and staying alive are two radically different concepts.

My luck continued because I was on well-traveled road in North Fork, where good things happen all the time. Shortly after I fell over into the roadway, Veronica stopped her car to see what was going on and promptly called 9-1-1. Then Chris, Greg and Jeremy pulled up and immediately started cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). To get blood pumping immediately raises chance for survival to 12-20 percent. In school, 20 percent earned an F for failure. Heart failure in this case.

But as luck would have it Cal Fire Rancheria was just a mile away and arrived promptly along with Sierra Ambulance and the North Fork Volunteer Fire Department. They all had automated external defibrillators (AED) and the Cal Fire crew used theirs to shock me back to life. Now my chance for survival is up around 70 percent; better than a coin flip!

My luck continued because when the call came through to 9-1-1 it went out initially as “Car vs. Bike” which prompts an automatic SkyLife flight dispatch. Let’s see, 8-minute helicopter trip or 45-minute ambulance ride? I’ll take the shorter trip and a Fast Pass to ER, ICU and excellent doctors at St. Agnes any day.

Lucky for me that I have been active my whole life and an avid cyclist for the last 28 years here in the Sierra foothills where the roads go up and down but are rarely flat. Good cardio workout terrain.

To be fair, not all these things are “lucky.” They include decisions by Good Samaritans to get involved, prompt emergency medical service response, the presence of an available AED, coupled with practiced knowledge of how to use it and lifestyle choices. But they are all things that contributed to my survival and rapid recovery.

If you want to experience the comfort that comes with knowledge and preparedness for an unexpected emergency with a stranger, friend or loved one such as what happened to me, there are a couple of things you can do.

The obvious one is to sign up for that first aid and CPR class you have been meaning to take all these years. CPR may seem intimidating because a life is literally in your hands. But consider the alternative of not knowing what to do.

Bill and Gina Hartley have worked in the EMS field for many years right here in our community. They are fantastic first aid and CPR instructors who have taught hundreds of classes over the years. They will get you comfortable with the concepts and help you practice the techniques. They will show you “Hands-Only” CPR also. Bill and Gina offer classes throughout the year. Call (559) 658-1052 or (559) 760-0655 for more information. Or visit their Minarets Medical Education website. The next scheduled class is April 30th at Kennedy Hall here in North Fork. Watch Sierra News Online for more details. AED familiarization is part of the class.

Another thing you can do is pay attention to AED units. Notice where they are located at work, in your school, church or local business. These machines are scattered throughout our community and are gaining in popularity as people learn that they save lives and are very easy to operate. The use of an AED unit within 3-5 minutes can raise the chance of survival to 70-75 percent. One of Bill and Gina’s goals is to see a dramatic increase in the number of AED units in our area exactly for those reasons.

Here I sit 100 percent alive thanks to, well we can call it luck for now but I think there is a divine hand involved. Heads I win. Yeah, I’m a Lucky Dog.

To read the entire story of Mike’s life-changing episode, click the links below:




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Sierra News Online

Sierra News Online