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The Difference Between Death And Survival

By MATT CHRISTY Staff Writer (219) 326-3870 mchristy@heraldargus.com | Posted: Friday, May 6, 2016 3:52 pm | La Porte Herald Argus

Drew White tells the story of his near death on Wednesday.

Drew White was running down the basketball court, officiating a game at the La Porte High School Fieldhouse, and, moments later, he was looking up at a hospital ceiling light.

Or at least it felt like moments.

“I was running down the court and, the next thing I know, I’m on a bed inside the emergency room staring up at the light and I have an oxygen mask on my face. I’m wondering, ‘did I miss something?'” White recalled. “Literally running down the court to laying in a hospital bed. I had fallen victim to sudden cardiac death.”

White couldn’t account for nearly 45 minutes of his life between the basketball court and the hospital mattress.

“Basically, I had no pulse,” said White, who works at the Beacher Weekly Newspaper. “I was a shade of blue that is normally reserved for Smurfs.”

Two nurses in the audience, along with some other bystanders, helped save his life by grabbing a nearby Automated External Defibrillator and shocking his heart. EMS would arrive not long after and shock him twice more.

While White said the word “lucky” gets thrown around a lot, he survived in a situation where the odds of survival are low. He knows this firsthand, as his mother died under similar circumstances when he was young.

White added he has to believe the difference between her death and his survival was the AED, as he received a shock within two minutes while she laid on the floor for nearly a half hour.

“Goes to show getting as many of these machines as we possibly can out into the community is only going to help,” White said.

Help is the goal of the La Porte Hospital Foundation as on Wednesday, White shared his story at the request of the Foundation, who took another stride toward eliminating sudden cardiac death in La Porte by donating 10 AEDs to seven different schools. The AEDs were gifted to La Porte High School, Purdue University Northwest North Central Campus, Knox High School, Indiana University Northwest, North Judson High School, South Central and New Prairie High School.

Maria Fruth and Jane Nelson of the La Porte Hospital Foundation handed out the AEDs to the different representatives of the schools as part of their ongoing effort to spread access to these potentially life-saving devices.

Kathy Ziekle, director of health services at New Prairie, received three AEDs on behalf of the high school, with the devices set to go to the school’s baseball/softball field, football field and the tennis courts.

Ziekle stated previously the school only had one AED located within the school, which the trainer used to have to carry to the different practice fields.

La Porte High School Principal Ben Tonagel was on hand to receive the AED for his school, which unfortunately knows too well the cost of sudden cardiac arrest. “It’s kind of a humbling experience (to receive the AED) because of the firsthand knowledge that we have at La Porte High School with sudden cardiac arrest experiencing Jake West’s tragedy three years ago,” Tonagel said.

It was only three years ago when Tonagel stood in the chapel of La Porte Hospital, where the AEDs were handed out, on the evening of West’s death surrounded by his fellow classmates and teammates.

“It’s a little bit somber to be in here celebrating a positive thing, but it also brings back those memories of a very tough situation and those are things Jake’s family lives everyday,” Tonagel said. “I’m just really grateful for the way our community has taken a tragedy and turned it into a positive to change other lives.” While La Porte High School has several other AEDs, the newest AED addition is to keep with the Foundation’s goal of having one AED within 90 seconds of all student athletes.

With La Porte High School having three campuses, including Kiwanis Field and Kesling, Tonagel said he will speak with the athletic administrators about where to strategically place these newest AED in order to keep with the 90 second goal. “This makes us more prepared and more ready in the event something else happens,” Tonagel said. “Hopefully it never does, but we will be more ready.” The Foundation is working with La Porte County EMS toward their next goal of making AEDs available around the community, not just at schools.

“We’re working with them to get the data of where in La Porte County we have the cardiac calls… so they can better distribute their resources to the places most in need,” said Eric Fenstermaker, assistant administrator with EMS. While EMS response time to anywhere in the county is only seven minutes, Fenstermaker said they hope with the spread of AEDs the hands of the public can act even quicker.