American Red Cross lifeguard: “Without that AED, we would have lost him.”

Red Cross instructor Amber Fesmire emailed Cardiac Science Customer Service earlier this month to order a new set of defibrillator pads. She needed them to replace a pair she’d used the day before to save a first aid student’s life.

We gave her a call to get the whole story.

Fesmire is the director of the Noble Activity Center at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. The activity center has a salt-water pool, where she teaches a life-guarding class for the community and for students who work at the pool. The class covers a range of first aid and water rescue skills, including how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED).


Rescuers Shandra Cole (student), Katie Alley (student), Amber Fesmire (Red Cross Instructor), and Magon Holloway (student). (Not pictured: Traci Dodgin (student) and Theresa Boyd (Red Cross instructor)

Sunday afternoon, May 2, five students in the life guard class were in the pool. They’d just completed a water-rescue test when one of the students, a high school teacher in his 50s, went into cardiac arrest. His classmates saw him collapse and sink beneath the water.

“Everyone went into action,” Fesmire recalls, adding that they initially thought the victim had suffered a seizure. They called 911.

“A couple of the students back-boarded him,” she said referring to a rigid flotation board used to safely move victims of a diving accident. “We got him out of the pool, but couldn’t use rescue breaths because he had swallowed so much water. We did some back blows, and hooked up the AED.”

The activity center’s Powerheart G3 defibrillator is usually kept at the front desk in another area of the facility, but, as luck would have it, Fesmire and the other class instructor had brought the heart defibrillator to a room adjoining the pool for use during the class.

“We hooked up him up to the AED, and it administered a shock,” she said. “His color started coming back, and he started breathing again.”

The life guard team continued to monitor the victim until the EMS team arrived. The activity center, a part of the Oklahoma Panhandle State University, is in a rural area served by a volunteer fire and EMS service. It took the emergency services team more than 15 minutes to arrive at the center — well beyond the 10-minute window during which a defibrillator can be used to restart a heart.

“Without that AED, we would have lost him,” Fesmire said. “The experience put a better perspective on the need to have such a device at our facility.”

The man was transported to a regional hospital where he is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery.

Fesmire told us she’s been teaching first aid for seven years, but this is the first time she’s done a rescue where she used an AED. “It was an eye-opening experience,” she said. “It was so simple to use.”

Fesmire said that the university has three AEDs on campus: one in the athletic department, one at the activity center, and one in the nursing office.

“I didn’t know much about AEDs until we got the Powerheart five years ago,” she said. “Dealing with Cardiac Science has made it easy to get and maintain a defibrillator. We totally appreciate what you do.”

Her AED Specialist for Oklahoma is our own Scott Foster. Contact him to safeguard your facility, too.