Defibrillator vest saves man's life

Thursday, March 27th 2008, 11:06 am
By: News 9

By Kirsten McIntyre, NEWS 9

A Pawnee County man is recovering at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital Thursday morning.

He's only the second Oklahoman to have his heart jump started by a special device.

Ralph Dooley still has his sense of humor despite recent scares with his heart. Bertha is the nickname he gave for the device that started his heart beating again.

"Cause this big bulk hanging on my side, a strap going across my shoulder, and I thought, ‘My, my. That'll be a nuisance'," Dooley said.

But that nuisance was a lifesaver. It was just last week when Ralph's heart started beating out of rhythm; a problem that can lead to death in minutes. It was a terrifying experience for his son, Larry.

"I don't know whose heart was beating faster, mine or his, when I got to him," Larry said.

But this defibrillator vest detected what was wrong and told Ralph what was coming next.

"Then that deal went to talking to me, telling all the bystanders to stand back, and pretty soon it said somebody's fixing to receive a shock," Ralph said.

"The device has a computer that monitors every heart beat," Heart Rhythm Specialist, Dr. Mark Harvey said.

Harvey says the vest is a safety net for patients who aren't quite ready for an implantable defibrillator.

"They might have recently had bypass surgery or recently had a heart attack or an infection, and we don't want to implant a device, so we use the vest as a bridge to implanting the device," Harvey said.

Ralph now has an implanted defibrillator in his chest. He and his family are grateful for it and also for the vest that saved his life.

"I think there's a lot of people out there that need them and haven't gotten them," Ralph said.

Both Ralph and Dr. Harvey want to stress if your heart has been damaged in any way, you may be at risk for sudden cardiac death. If that's the case, defibrillators or even medication can be life-saving.

Defibrillators shock a person's heart back into normal rhythm. Doctors say the sooner your heart is shocked, the better chance you have of surviving.