Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, began like any other day for Lieutenant Regis Thimons. He had arrived early for work, so he was planning to leave early as well. That afternoon, he walked out of his office at the St. Joseph County Police Department in South Bend, Ind., to call his wife and tell her he was coming home soon. Then he made a quick stop at the restroom. That’s the last thing Thimons remembers until the following Sunday. A fellow officer found him in the restroom—unresponsive, no pulse, in a pool of blood from where his head had hit the floor. He had collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest.
Quick-thinking officers began chest compressions and located a Powerheart® G3 Automated External Defibrillator (AED). After four shocks, his pulse returned by the time paramedics arrived. Now, a healthy Thimons has returned to his work as a detective in the Investigations Division. “If it wasn’t for one of these devices, I probably wouldn’t be here today,” said Thimons of the AED.
Thimons had already suffered a heart attack three years prior, and had two stents put in. And because heart attack victims are more susceptible to cardiac arrest, Thimons tried to be vigilant whenever he felt something awry. “That particular day, I had no symptoms, though,” said Thimons. “I had no idea I was going to have a problem.”
Fortunately for Thimons, most of his department’s patrol vehicles, the county jail, and the courthouse are equipped with AEDs, and CPR/AED training is an annual requirement. It’s not just good fortune, though. The availability of those AEDs is the product of years of preparation, and it’s preparation for which Thimons himself is largely responsible.
After witnessing the use of an AED some years earlier, Thimons mentioned the experience to a friend at a local hospital, who told him he should contact HeartReach Michiana. The organization purchases and distributes AEDs as part of their non-profit mission. He did, and they responded with three units that first year. “Now we have about 80,” said Thimons, many of them Powerheart models, and every one thanks to HeartReach Michiana. “Our goal is to have one in each patrol vehicle,” said Thimons, who notes that due to a recent increase in patrols they now need 15 or 20 more.
Typically, police officers are the first to arrive in situations of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a condition that kills more than 325,000 people annually in the United States. SCA can strike an otherwise healthy child or adult who has no visible symptoms. According to the American Heart Association, if defibrillation doesn’t occur within 10 minutes, the chance of survival drops to less than 5%. That’s what makes quick availability of AEDs so critical.
Thimons said he wants to get the word out about the lifesaving potential of AEDs for law enforcement. His department’s AEDs have been used over a dozen times now, and he tears up explaining that he’s “living proof that these things are so valuable.” The experience changed his life, and now Thimons is 31 lbs. lighter, with a fresh outlook to go along with his new lease on life. “I decided to finally listen to my cardiologist,” said Thimons. “I have three years until retirement, and I want to be here for my grandkids.”