Cardiac arrest patient reunites with first responders, medical staff

Published 4:03 pm Monday, March 22, 2021

By NATHAN HOWELL | Staff Writer

ALABASTER – As he was looking forward to Thanksgiving in the coming weeks, James Eagan never expected to experience cardiac arrest. However, when he did he was able to survive the experience thanks to the hard work of Alabaster Fire and Rescue and a new lifesaving device.

Through funding from the CARES Act, the department was able to purchase LUCAS devices, which help to provide automated, guidelines-consistent chest compression to help improve blood flow in people experiencing cardiac arrest.

Eagan was the first person that they used this device on, and because of this and the hard work of staff at Shelby Baptist he was able to make a full recovery, and recently reunited with Shelby Baptist staff and first responders where the importance of this new device was emphasized.

“The reunion was phenomenal and very emotional,” Eagan said. “I felt so blessed that they had this machine and I thought it was very important and I wanted to tell the chief how thankful and blessed I was.”

Eagan recalled that he could not remember much about that day. He said his wife Nora was there, along with his son, who called the first responders when they noticed what was happening.

“He has a mostly healthy heart, but his potassium and electrolytes were down and he started to get dizzy,” Nora recalled. “My son tried to do CPR and chest compressions until the fire department got there. They are very far away from us, but because of this machine they were able to use it on him and save his life.”

During the commotion, James’ heart stopped beating several times which added an extra element to what was already a frightening situation.

“We were so thankful that they had the training to deal with this,” Nora said. “If they did not have that we might be in a very different situation today.”

Months later, James and Nora said that he is feeling much better and is just very grateful to be alive.

“I am feeling good,” James said. “I have a pacemaker in place now. I am just thanking God, my wife, my son and Alabaster for saving me.

Captain Nathan Smitherman, training officer for the Alabaster Fire Department, explained that this device provides an incredible benefit to paramedics as it frees them up, while also maintaining steady compressions for the patient.

“It provides consistent and continuous compressions that are imperative when you are talking about CPR and keeping the patient’s blood flowing.,” Smitherman explained. “The LUCAS device essentially replaces a person for us, because it does the compressions automatically for us, it frees up one or more people who might have to swap out doing manual compressions.”

Reuniting with Eagan so many months later helped Smitherman reflect on the importance that this device holds, and the benefit it has provided the department since that call.

“We now use this on every cardiac arrest call that we get,” Smitherman said. “Obviously there are a lot of factors outside of chest compressions that go into survivability for patients, but we have definitely seen an increase in improved patient outcomes on our end with it.”

At the reunion, James and Nora got to see the LUCAS device up-close and learn a lot more about the machine that helped to save his life.

“The reunion was very exciting and celebratory for all of us,” Nora said. “It was very exciting to see the machine, have them explain to us and demonstrate how easy it is to get someone on it. It was very educational, and everybody should have access to this machine.”

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