AED, Cool Heads Save Life at Athletic Club
August 24, 2020 by Jamie Ward

“The message is key: more businesses need to have these machines, and they aren’t that hard to operate.” - Jim Rosenberger

When a tennis player collapsed, the Chagrin Valley Athletic Club knew what to do.

The Chagrin Valley Athletic Club, founded in 1968 and located in Bainbridge Township, has 100,000 square feet of facilities that cover 30 acres and host hundreds events for about 3,500 members.

But a few simple words on the club’s website can best describe it, according to owner Jim Rosenberger: the club’s mission.

“We are blessed with staff who share … commitment to service. And we are particularly proud of our membership.”

When a tennis player at the Chagrin Valley Athletic Club collapsed Aug. 20 during a weekday tennis drill, the cool-headedness of both members and staff ultimately saved the 67-year-old’s life.

Bob Rowe was giving tennis lessons to CVAC members, as he has since he started in 1999, when a longtime member and excellent tennis player, Tim Allard, passed out.

A quick 911 call, and the fact that all full-time CVAC staff are Red Cross certified in life-saving techniques like how to use an AED, or automated external defibrillator, helped save Allard’s life.

“I was shaking,” Rowe remembered of the incident. “It stuns you when you’re in that situation. You have someone who is blue in the face, eyes are open staring at you. You have a tendency to lose it mentally, but you have to go back and think about what is taught to you.”

Rowe said another CVAC member, Bill Ohler, began chest compressions after Allard stopped breathing, about 60 seconds into the 911 call, which was made by another of the tennis lesson’s eight participants.

Someone else grabbed the AED, Rowe said, and others began to help.

“Anyone got the AED?” the 911 caller on speakerphone is heard saying.

“They are bringing it right now.”

“I’m going to stay on the phone with you,” said the dispatcher, Sara Newpher. “Chest compressions only are fine.”

She continued: “I want you to follow the instructions on the AED. It will tell you where to put the pads, and it will tell you when to press the button.”

As Newpher asked more questions, the AED’s automated voice could be heard in the background, giving Rowe and those around him instructions.

After a minute or two, the AED delivered the shock and chest compressions started again.

“Press-press-press-press,” the machine instructed.

“Just keep going, you guys are doing awesome,” the dispatcher says. “Just keep going.”

Press-press-press-press, it continues.

“Hey, there you go, he’s breathing,” a voice on the phone says.

“He’s breathing?” Sara asked.

“Yes, yes.”

Sheriff Scott Hildenbrand listened to the call.

“When you listen to that and he starts breathing again, it gives you chills,” the Sheriff said. “They did a super job.”

“It’s the first time in all my years that someone had an AED available on scene,” said Newpher, who has been a dispatcher since 2004, the last year with Geauga County. “And also to have a bystander that was able to use it. I was really happy to hear he was breathing again. They did such an amazing job. They made my job pretty easy.”

Quick work of CVAC staff, paired with an AED, had also saved a second life within in the past 18 months, said Rosenberger, the owner. That time, it was another member who had a massive heart attack in the club’s pool. A 16-year-old lifeguard, who had also been trained on the AED, pulled the person out of the water and restarted the person’s heart.

“I’m extremely proud and grateful,” said Rosenberger, who purchased the club in 1992. “The message is key: more businesses need to have these machines, and they aren’t that hard to operate.”

Hildenbrand stressed the importance of training, and encouraged anyone certified in CPR or other life-saving techniques to participate in a countywide mobile application called PulsePoint, which notifies trained people of a possible public emergency in which they could help.

Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of natural death in the United States. An estimated 325,000 people die from cardiac arrest each year.

“This means that every two minutes, someone in this country is going to die from cardiac arrest,” University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center President Don DeCarlo said during a March 12 press conference held at the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office to announce the launch of PulsePoint in Geauga County.

“You know, I can’t remember who I was talking to,” remembers Rowe when asked about his yearly Red Cross re-certification process, “but I said the next time, I am going to pay a lot more attention to the finer details. The bottom line is, Tim is home. You can have a little training that will go a long way.”