A Race Against the Clock: Surviving a Heart Attack

By: Meagan O'Halloran Email
By: Meagan O'Halloran Email

Heart attacks, sudden cardiac arrest, fatal arrhythmia-- they can happen at any moment, and in matters of the heart, survival is a race against the clock.

If it happens to you, would you be able to live to tell about it? It depends on more than just your health. We'll take a look at the best-and-worst places to have a heart emergency and hear from one family who is turning their tragedy into a life-saving campaign.

It can strike at any moment.

Mike Foster remembers the day he lost his son. "We were just tossing the football in my parents' yard, and he caught a pass and started running back and collapsed".

Foster's nine year old daughter McCain remembers it too, back when she was four years old. "When we went to the hospital, he never came back".

It was Thanksgiving 2006 in Panama City Beach, when John Wesley Foster died of sudden cardiac arrest. He was only nine years old.

Now John's family believes he could still be with them if he had received treatment sooner. Now they're working to ensure their tragedy isn't visited on another family.

Dr. Samir Patel, a local interventional cardiologist says an automated external defibrillator and a trained person to use it saves lives.

"Minutes count. You can literally die within 3-to-5 minutes if you're not treated appropriately" said Dr. Patel.

It's a golden window, that 3-to-5 minutes. What happens in that window will make the difference between life and death.

"If you're in a remote location like an airplane or on a boat, if they don't have an AED on site and someone trained to use it, those are obviously the worst places to have a heart attack" Dr. Patel said.

The good news is that AED's are spreading like an epidemic, with an increasing number of places where people congregate adding the devices.

"Now I notice them wherever I go; in hotels, airports, federal buildings, schools, sports parks, and now we're starting to see more coverage on the networks about an AED saving a life, and that's what we want to hear" added Foster.

John Foster's family is still grief-stricken by the death of their young son, but they're finding a way to channel their emotions. In the last five years, the Foster family has placed twenty-five AED's in Northwest Florida, and forty-five AED's in Florida, Alabama, and Tennessee.

"It doesn't get easier, we just learn to deal with it a little bit better and we do that through the foundation" said Foster.

The Foster family is trying to AED's as common as fire extinguishers in public places. They hold various fund-raisers, accept donations and get a good discount off the $1,500-$3,000 dollar devices.

There's still more to be done. To find out how you can help, go to the John Wesley Foster Foundation. We have a link on our website under the 'links' tab.


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