It was a normal day. Bill Winness was walking his normal route through the Western Mall with his two friends the morning of April 5, 2019, when one started to feel dizzy. He urged Winness to keep going while he sat and rested for a bit.
Just minutes later, a woman came running after the 71-year-old and his friend, Ray Smidt, to tell them that their friend, Keith Clark, was suffering a heart attack.
They ran back as fast as they could. The next thing Winness knew, he was grabbing the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) inside the building while Smidt ran to Clark's aid. Winness was by Clark's side instantly after grabbing the AED.
Winness was trained how to use the AED, an electronic device that diagnoses a cardiac arrest, and how to apply electricity in the event of one, in addition to CPR training years ago. All he remembered were the basics, but that was enough.
Winness doesn't remember panicking, just taking the steps he needed to save his best friend's life.
"I guess you just do whatever you have to do, you know? You don’t really think about it," Winness said.
The first step in using the AED was to apply adhesive strips to Clark's chest for the AED to read what should be done. Since Clark had a pacemaker, the AED just instructed Winness to give CPR. He started chest compressions while another bystander stood on the line with a 9-1-1 dispatcher.
What Winness did helped provide the necessary oxygen to Clark's brain and helped his heart pump blood while they waited for emergency responders.
It was only minutes, but what he did was vital to preserving Clark's well-being, according to Scott Christensen, director of clinical service for Patient Care EMS.
"It buys time," Christensen said. "That time it takes for someone to call for help until first responders arrive, it's important for someone trained in CPR to give that type of care and assistance. All of that together is what helped save Keith's life."
If Winness wasn't there to give CPR before units arrived, Christensen speculated that Clark might have passed away.
Clark, 81, was released from the heart hospital Friday. He's in relatively good condition, and was advised by his doctor to "lay low" for a few weeks.
This was Clark's second heart attack, and he's been suffering episodes for half his life. Winness and Clark talked about what they would do if this happened. They were prepared as much as they could be.
"We all knew where the defibrillator was mounted. We walk by it every day," Clark said. "I think everybody should know CPR. It probably doesn't hurt if everybody knew where these AEDs were either."
Such training, for AED or CPR, saves lives, according to Christensen. And it's worthwhile for anyone to learn the life-saving techniques, even hands-only CPR.
Bystanders in Sioux Falls helped give CPR for 73 percent of cardiac arrests in 2017, according to Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority.
It's common for bystanders to take action in Sioux Falls, just as Bill took charge to help Clark. Nationally though, the REMSA registry's average is action from bystanders in 38 percent of cardiac arrests.
"It's always impressive here," said Julie Sharbano, executive chair for REMSA. "Good job, Sioux Falls."
Part of that is because of wide CPR training in the Sioux Falls area and because of dispatchers instructing 9-1-1 callers how to give CPR. The high rate of bystander help can also be attributed to Sioux Falls Fire Recue's Pulsepoint app, which alerts people when CPR is needed nearby.
"Any CPR is better than no CPR," Christensen said.
For AEDs, it's 28 percent of bystanders who intervene with the device in Sioux Falls. About 11 percent of bystanders across the registry intervened with an AED in 2017.
There isn't a standard on how to provide signs for AEDs, Christensen said. Clark worries there needs to be better ways to inform people where the AEDs are — it could mean life or death.
There are over 700 AEDs in buildings around Sioux Falls, mostly in public places such as schools and churches, said Jeremy Robertson, EMS educator for Sioux Falls Fire Rescue.
Robertson said the fire department recommends to businesses how to mount the AEDs so they're easily seen. The Pulsepoint app also shows where AEDs are located in a building, if SFFR is aware of it.
For Winness, he's grateful he remembered where the AED was in the Western Mall and that he and other bystanders were able to intervene and help Clark.
"You don’t have to be old to get a heart attack," Winness said. "Anyone can get one. If someone knows a little CPR it sure can make a big difference."
Makenzie L Huber, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Published 2:20 p.m. CT April 9, 2019
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