JOHNSTON - The heart attack Leonard Osborn suffered last month hit him without warning.
The 56-year-old man said he was even more surprised to learn that his heart had stopped beating for several minutes, and if it hadn't been for his wife, Carol, the quick response time of the Johnston Township Fire Department's EMS crew and a mechanical CPR device used to save him, he likely would not have survived.
"I don't remember any of it," he remarked. "They told me later that technically I had been dead for four minutes. I was surprised to hear that. I was grateful, very grateful, but surprised."
Osborn was sitting at the kitchen table in his Johnston home on July 21 when he fell backward. Carol Osborn, 51, said she put her husband on the floor and immediately started CPR. Family members called 911 and within minutes the EMS crew arrived and took over.
The team initiated CPR, shocked Osborn's heart and hooked up the mechanical CPR device. The equipment is designed to provide consistent chest compressions and breathing ventilation to a person who has no heartbeat and is not breathing, explained Mary Kay Sly, one of the first members of the department's EMS crew to respond to the call.
"It was amazing to see how it worked and to know how effective of a tool it really is," said Sly, who is also a correspondent for the Tribune Chronicle.
The Johnston Fire Department purchased two mechanical CPR devices for about $12,000 each last year using funds from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.
Sly said they were well worth the price.
The device is recommended for all cardiac arrests, explained Dr. Jeffrey Bedlion, medical director for Johnston Township EMS. He said although variations of the equipment have been around for many years, using them on a regular basis fell by the wayside until recently.
Still, it is not yet a common piece of equipment for fire departments and emergency service responders, he noted.
"The thing to remember is that this is a very important step in the whole process," he said. "But it's not the only one. This was a good save."
Bedlion said mechanical CPR surpasses CPR given by a person because the machine can guarantee the rate, depth and quality of the compressions. Plus, use of it eliminates human fatigue.
"There is no way a person could keep up with the amount of compressions it often takes in a situation like this," Bedlion said, noting use of the device also frees up rescue providers to perform other tasks and helps avoid any breaks in the CPR process.
Last week, after being released from the hospital on Aug. 1, Osborn and his wife visited the Johnston Township Fire Department to meet and thank the EMS crew that saved his life.
"I owe them big," he said Tuesday during telephone conversation. "I never had anything like that happen before. I never expected it. I never had any signs or any warning or anything. It just happened. I'm just glad to be alive."
Sly said Osborn regained a spontaneous pulse enroute to St. Joseph Health Center's emergency department "approximately 16 minutes after he first clinically died." She said the resuscitation team at the Warren hospital continued the aggressive medical treatment on Osborn, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit before being transferred to Cleveland for a cardiac procedure and eventually discharged to go home.
"I have been in EMS for 23 years and this is the most joyful day of my life besides my wedding," Sly said. "To know that my hands made a difference in someone life makes the job all the more worthwhile."