(Aspen, CO) The survivor of sudden cardiac arrest in Aspen returned to town to thank the first responders who saved his life. Seventy year old Wendel Iverson and his wife Katie participated in a ceremony for local emergency responders during a joint meeting of Pitkin County Commissioners and Aspen City Council.
First responders and other rescue personnel were honored with a proclamation at the meeting on October 20th. the Iversons travelled back to Aspen from Arizona to attend. The ceremony was televised and can be viewed on CGTV Channel 11 and online at www.aspenpitkin.com. Click on Watch Webcasts - Other Government Meetings.
All the pieces of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) “chain of survival” came together for Iverson's successful outcome from the cardiac arrest he suffered in Aspen.
On the afternoon of August 21st, at one of the last rehearsals of the Aspen Music Festival, a member of the Colorado Symphony Choir, Iverson suddenly collapsed into unconsciousness. Unbeknownst to his wife, who was sitting outside the tent with him during a lunch break, he had suffered usually fatal ventricular fibrillation.
“He had absolutely no warning,” said his wife, Katie. “It wasn’t like you imagined that he would complain of chest pain and clutch his chest. He was a healthy 70 year old, with no previous heart problems and taking no medications who suddenly blacked out,” Iverson said.
That was when the training and quick response of local dispatchers, police, EMTs and doctors came into play that saved Iverson’s life. The 911 dispatcher on duty gave “by stander” CPR instructions over the telephone, Aspen Police Department Officers and Aspen Fire Department EMS responders were automatically dispatched and Aspen Ambulance District (AAD) Paramedics arrived on the scene three minutes after they were dispatched (well below the national response guideline of 8.59 minutes for advanced life support). The ambulance from AAD that arrived on the scene was staffed by a 25 + year paramedic and two EMTs who administered critical care medications and skills including immediate defibrillation.
“Family and bystanders who witnessed these efforts said it was unbelievable that everyone had a task, did them without being requested and their feeling was that it looked like the team trained for something like this every day,” said Director of Aspen Ambulance, Jim Richardson.
Iverson was transported to Aspen Valley Hospital where a highly experienced team was notified and waiting ton continue resuscitation efforts. University Hospital in Aurora was contacted and it was decided in consultation that Iverson be entered into Induced Hypothermia (TIH - cooling) a state-of-the-art technique done in only a few places in the country and mostly only in urban areas.
Air transfer was arranged with Flight for Life and Iverson was literally “packed in ice” for the ambulance ride to Sardy Field and onto Denver. After a few days in the hospital, having been fitted with a pacemaker and internal defibrillator, Iverson was well enough to return home to Arizona.
“I’ve researched sudden cardiac arrest and know that only about five percent of victims of it ever make it to the hospital alive and that if they do pull through they usually have serious side effects like kidney and brain damage,” Katie Iverson said.
Not only did Iverson arrive at the hospital alive, he suffered no serious side effects. He has resumed his normal lifestyle which includes golf and walking at least two miles per day.
“I thank all the people who responded so quickly,” Iverson said. “I’m so grateful.”