It was the first day of SWAT Team training at the Ohio Police Officers Training Academy. East Cleveland Police Officer John Bechtel had just finished a training run when he felt dizzy and short of breath. Bechtel, 33, is a runner and was in good shape, so he knew immediately that something was seriously wrong. Someone told him to sit down — and that’s the last thing he remembers about August 16, 2010.
Bechtel collapsed under a tree on the training academy grounds, a victim of sudden cardiac arrest. He had no pulse, and had stopped breathing.
Fortunately for him, he was surrounded by people with CPR and AED training and the Training Academy had an automated external defibrillator (AED) on hand. A physician who’d come to observe the training joined one of the instructors to start CPR, and the Powerheart G3 AED arrived a minute or two later.
“I’m told that they ran in and got the AED, brought it out, and hooked me up,” Bechtel said. “They had to shock me twice before my heart went back into a normal rhythm.”
The Training Academy is in a relatively rural area near London, Ohio. An ambulance arrived, but the physician called in a helicopter to transport Bechtel to a medical facility at Ohio State University.
“I woke up a day and a half later,” Bechtel recalls.
He was flown to a Cleveland medical facility where he had his aortic valve replaced and an internal defibrillator implanted.
Doctors still aren’t sure why Bechtel fell victim to sudden cardiac arrest. Although he’d been born with aortic stenosis, the valve condition had been diagnosed and was not considered serious. He’d gone through police training, was a serious runner, and had gotten a clean bill of health from his cardiologist just six months earlier.
The new implanted defibrillator is “insurance” in case sudden cardiac arrest occurs again, Bechtel said.
“No one is sure what caused it,” he said, “but what I do know is that without that AED being there, I wouldn’t have made it.”
Ironically, Bechtel himself is a EMT, trained in advanced life support including the use of an AED. However, he’s never conducted an AED rescue.
His sudden cardiac arrest incident raised awareness of the need for AEDs and AED training in the East Cleveland Police Department. They have since trained the department in CPR and AED use, and have purchased AEDs for some of the police department vehicles.