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Team effort - and a little luck - saves life

AED put to use at Highland Games

June 8, 2011

A city employee keeping watch over Hart Park helped save the life of a man participating in the Scottish Highland Games on Saturday morning.

About 11 a.m., Jim Fork, a custodian/laborer for the city, overheard one of the event coordinators say a man had collapsed. The weather was hot, and the park was extremely busy.

"I said 'Someone is having a heart attack in my park?'" he recalled. "Then I asked if anything was being done to help that individual."

Jumping into action

Someone asked whether an automated external defibrillator, a machine that can shock a heart back into a normal rhythm, could be found on the property. Fork ran and retrieved the AED locked inside the Muellner Building, handed it off and followed to find the 49-year-old bagpiper from Illinois who was ill.

One of the participants in the games, Thomas "Flash" Gordon, lived up to his nickname -administering CPR and the AED until paramedics arrived. Gordon is an EMT and volunteers his services at the annual event.

Not first crisis

Gordon became known for his medical knowledge seven years ago when the games were held in Glendale. He mans a clan tent and left the booth when he heard a man on the gamefield was having a seizure. Another year, a bagpiper got dehydrated.

When the games moved to Hart Park, the organizers were required to have an EMT on site. Gordon brings his medical pack and is equipped with a radio, which is how he was alerted to the heart attack.

Gordon got oxygen on the patient and called for the AED. Then, he stayed when the paramedics arrived and assisted.

AEDs make difference

Wauwatosa Deputy Fire Chief James Case points to the incident as an example of how having a fairly inexpensive piece of equipment in city buildings can save a life, because what happens during those first few minutes when a cardiac emergency occurs can mean the difference between death and recovery.

The man who had the heart attack was taken to Froedtert Hospital, and was conscious and alert. Case did not know if he had been released.

Donations accepted

Mayor Jill Didier applauded the emergency response.

"Despite the tragic circumstances, the efforts that were put forth saved a life," she said. "Our hearts and blessings go out to the individual."

The AED at the Muellner Building had been transferred to the senior center from a fire rig, Case said. Recently, the devices also were placed in police cars thanks to fundraising efforts by former Alderman Richard Bachman.

With additional donations, the city could put AEDs in more buildings, Case said.

Access, training key

Gordon said the machines are helpful, but they have to be accessible. The heart attack victim fell near the park entrance, but the AED was locked up inside the Muellner Building.

Fork doesn't have the training to use the AED, so he was lucky to have experienced people around. As the only person on site most weekends, it would help to be AED trained, he said.

His job has had him putting bandages on kids' cuts, working with building renters, doing janitorial duties and working the scoreboard. As watchman, he keeps order in the park.

"I'm the eyes and ears of the park," he said. "There's only three of us, and between us we take care of things from 7 a.m. to midnight Monday through Sunday."

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