LAPEL — Greg Scott cannot remember Sept. 17, 2014.
He cannot tell you what he ate, what he did from the moment he opened his eyes that morning or any of the people he had a conversation with that day.
The moments before Scott dropped to his knees on the street in front of his home as he suffered a sudden heart attack are forever lost, but his life was spared thanks in part to someone else’s generosity.
“Life is so fragile,” Scott said. “There is only an instant between life and being with Jesus forever. And it is a pretty thin line.”
In the U.S. more than 350,000 people will experience sudden cardiac arrest this year, making it a leading cause of death, according to the American Red Cross. But with more training and access to automated external defibrillators (AED), the organization says 50,000 lives could be spared from this sudden death.
Scott’s life was one of those 50,000 when an AED, purchased by a woman who had lost her husband from a sudden cardiac event, was used in time to save his life.
An AED is a medical device that analyzes the heart’s rhythm. The advanced technology determines if someone requires an electrical shock and — if necessary — it delivers the shock, otherwise known as defibrillation, so the heart can re-establish an effective rhythm.
The easy-to-operate device is the only effective treatment for restoring a regular heart rhythm and requires no medical background of the person using the equipment, according to the American Heart Association.
But the device must be used within 10 minutes of a cardiac arrest because for each minute defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced by 10 percent, said Holly Renz, who coordinates the AED program for Community Hospital Anderson.
First responders can average eight to 12 minutes after a person calls 911.
“He lives and breathes another day by the grace of God and the fact we have AEDs,” Renz said of Scott’s story. “A CPR buys you time, but an AED saves your life.”
Tony and Amy Pearson found Scott in the middle of the road shortly after he had collapsed and they called for help before starting CPR. Capt. Mike Barnes of the Lapel Police Department rushed to help the couple. He carried an AED in his vehicle.
Scott said because everyone was notified so quickly, people were praying for him while he was still lying in the street. He said there was no coincidence about what happened — God wanted him to live another day.
“The fact that there was even an AED there at all and the way all of this was connected, it was like God had this all lined up before I had the heart attack,” Scott said.
AEDs are located throughout the county in both the private and public schools and there are a total of 118 devices, including some carried in the vehicles of Madison County sheriff's deputies, but more are needed, Renz said.
“It would be nice to have more in the community if we could,” Renz said. “Parks, public pools — there are a lot of places I dream about having AEDs.”
Using the AED, which stops the heart long enough so the body’s natural pacemaker inside the heart can fire, is not difficult for anyone — including someone without medical training.
Once the device is turned on, verbal commands walk the user through the process. AEDs tell the person where to put the electrode pad and then it does everything else. It assesses whether a shock is needed and then, if a button is pushed, the shock is delivered. If no shock is needed — the device will not administer a shock, even if the person hits the button.
The Community Hospital Anderson Foundation helps to purchase the devices used in Madison County, and Keith Trent, vice president and chief Foundation officer, said AEDs are maintained in the community by the organization to help save lives just as it did for Scott.
Trent said the Anderson hospital could not have been built without the community’s assistance 50 years ago and the foundation has never forgotten that generosity. That is why equipment is sometimes purchased and maintained by the organization.
“We are always looking for ways to give back to the community and this has been a great program for us to do just that,” Trent said.
Scott is also grateful AEDs are in his community. Two weeks ago, the Lapel High school Show Choir and Jazz Band held a benefit dinner and concert with all the proceeds going to purchase an AED for the fire department so even more lives could be saved with the device.
“The nurses told me what happened to me hardly ever turns out successful as far as staying alive,” Scott said. “Even the doctors started calling me the miracle man. They did everything they could, but it was the prayers of the people who know and love me that is the reason I am here talking to you tonight.”