Ron Nickell // "I am thankful" 2010

For Ron Nickell of Centerville, December 14, 2007 was just another day.  He spent the day with his wife, Shirley, and Nickell-2then went to dinner with a couple friends before heading to Hagerstown to cheer on his favorite team in the basketball tournament.  At age 74, he was enjoying retirement and his grandchildren.

However, December 14 soon became a day that Ron would remember forever.  As Ron and his friends sat in the bleachers, he suddenly began to blackout with his vision becoming a funnel until he grew unconscious.  His heart had stopped.  Ron fell forward.

Dr. Gregory Hellwarth and Paramedic Lana Gregory rushed to his side.  Dr. Hellwarth immediately began CPR until an onlooker brought the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) that was onsite at Hagerstown High School.

“I don’t know if Ron would have come out alive without the use of the AED,” said Dr. Hellwarth.  “Without question, early responses save lives.”

An AED is a portable device meant to assess the patient’s heart rhythm and administer an appropriate level of shock to re-start the heart or help the heart regain a steady rhythm.  Although a physician was available to use the AED in this situation, simple instructions allow anyone to use the device.  In instances like Ron’s, timing is critical.

Ron and his grandson, Tyler

Ron’s grandson, Tyler

Ron remained unconscious until he was in the ambulance on his way to Reid Hospital.  The emergency department staff explained what had happened to Ron and his family.  “You don’t have fear,” Ron said, “because you are there at Reid and you know they are going to take care of you.”

Ron’s wife Shirley was grateful.  “It all turned out thanks to the medical staff,” she said.  “I’m thankful I had good sons (John and Jeff) to be there with me.”

During the next days and months, Cardiologist Dr. Xin Han implanted a defibrillator and Ron regained his strength through cardiac rehabilitation.  “The implant has already saved my life at least twice that I know of,” Ron said.  The defibrillator sends a message to the cardiology office when there is an irregular heartbeat, triggering a phone call to the patient and immediate treatment, when necessary.

“The treatment overall was unreal – not only to me, but to my family,” Ron said.

Now Ron spends his days with his wife, sons and grandchildren.  He enjoys the garden and his John Deer tractor – similar to the one his father had when he was a child.  Most of all, he is alive and appreciates every day.

*Ron passed away in 2011.  His family is thankful for the nearly four years they had with him after his heart attack.

Community AED program

With the help of donors, Reid Foundation purchased and distributed 291 Automated Electronic Defibrillators (AEDs). Seventy-five were donated to area school systems where people, young and old, gather each day. The remainder went to non-profit organizations. This effort began with Eaton Library, Cope Environmental Center and Camp Yale in Randolph County.

We often hear stories of men, women and children who have died from a heart-related incident – many could have been saved if an AED had been available and a bystander willing to follow simple instructions used it.

For those of you who joined in this important endeavor to make AEDs available in our community – thank you. The cost of each device was negotiated at approximately $1,000 bringing the total cost of the program to over $275,000.

An interesting fact…
Knowing some people are intimidated by the use of an AED, a team of experts as well as individuals with no clinical background interviewed several companies to find an AED that anyone could use. In fact, the chosen device actually talks the user through the process and will not continue to the next step until it senses the previous step has been completed. It then assesses the patient and only administers shock if needed.