Michael Hess remembers “bit and pieces” of what happened the morning of March 27 at Life Time Fitness, Coon Rapids.
But the prompt intervention of first responders – Coon Rapids fire and police personnel and Allina paramedics – using CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation) and an AED (automated external defibrillator) brought Hess back.
“I appreciate all of their efforts,” Hess said. “I would not be here without them.”
According to Hess, he has suffered no brain or heart damage.
“I feel great,” Hess said earlier this week. “I’m not 100 percent, but I am 95 percent.”
But it could easily have been a different scenario, Hess said.
Hess recalls standing up during his workout, which included a five-mile walk, then “everything was tunnel vision, I lost my balance, fell and knew I was in trouble,” he said.
“The next thing I remember is waking up and seeing a nurse.”
But he said his wife told him that he had been talking to her, although he does not remember that, Hess said.
Indeed, Hess is back at work as a technical director for product development at a chemical company and has resumed his workouts at Life Time Fitness, including long walks, he said.
According to Hess, he has had no prior heart problems, but a history in his family of high blood pressure and high cholesterol for which he takes medication.
He regularly works out at Life Time Fitness, where he has been a member since 2001, walks extensively and has competed in several triathlons including two years ago in the Ironman, Hess said.
“I never thought this would happen to me,” he said.
He spent some time in the intensive care unit at Mercy Hospital, initially in an induced coma, but he was released from the hospital April 1 and went back to work a week later, Hess said.
“I am able to do pretty much what I was doing before working out,” he said.
Hess and his wife Denise have three grown children – Ryan, 32, Jenna, 28, and Sarah, 26.
Coon Rapids Police Office Bryan Platz was first on the scene when Hess initially collapsed at Life Time Fitness March 27.
Platz is spearheading the efforts of the Coon Rapids Police Department for Coon Rapids to become an American Heart Safe community, which includes placement of AEDs in businesses and classes to the community in CPR and AED use.
Late last year all police department squad cars were equipped with AEDs and officers trained in their use like the fire department.
Platz has been conducting weekly CPR/AED training at Life Time Fitness for members of the club. All the staff have been trained and the facility has an AED, Platz said.
According to Platz, Life Time Fitness members and staff had performed CPR on Hess prior to his arrival and he found Hess lying on the floor awake and talking.
“Michael told me that he was feeling much better, was not sure what happened but it might be diet-related, then he went on to tell me he was extremely fit and that he ran Ironman competitions,” Platz said.
But when Platz sat Hess up from the lying position, Hess said he was feeling dizzy, his eyes rolled back in his head and he became unresponsive.
“Michael had just suffered sudden cardiac arrest before our very eyes,” Platz said.
Hess was quickly loaded on to the ambulance, where CPR was started and the AED was attached.
“After eight minutes of CPR and five shocks from the AED were administered, Michael’s pulse was restored and he began breathing on his own again,” Platz said.
According to Platz, the people who deserve credit for this save are Coon Rapids firefighters Mike McManus and Kevin Beck and the two paramedics on the scene.
The only injuries that Hess received were a laceration to his face from the initial collapse and some broken ribs from the CPR, Platz said.
And when Platz spoke to him April 6, Hess had just finished walking five miles, he said.
Platz also praised the actions of Life Time Fitness members and staff prior to the arrival of first responders.
“The members and staff at the club acted quickly and without hesitation to set the table for success,” Platz said.
“The actions of staff and members in those critical minutes between the incident and our arrival ensured that Michael was never going to go a second without lifesaving care.”
This is a perfect example of what the heart safe program is designed to do, according to Platz.
“Get the bystanders to stop standing by and start taking life saving action,” Platz said.
“Fortunately for Michael, his heart stopped beating right in front of emergency services and CPR and AED was started immediately.”
To become a heart safe community, there are certain criteria that have to be met, including having 17 AEDs placed in Coon Rapids businesses, having a specific number of people trained in CPR and AED use, both of which are based on population, and scheduling public events, Platz said.
Efforts to meet those criteria are now under way, he said.
Indeed, Assurance Manufacturing has become the first business in Coon Rapids to purchase an AED, plus do the training, as a result of the heart safe community campaign, according to Platz.
According to the American Heart Association Heart Safe Community brochure, designation as a heart safe community “makes the community a safer place to live, work and play by being prepared to reduce the number of deaths and disabilities associated with sudden cardiac arrest.”
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]