Bystanders save volleyball player’s life
VAIL – Several bystanders kept Castle Rock resident Andrew Staples alive June 17 when he collapsed from a cardiac arrest on a Vail volleyball court during a tournament. “Obviously I owe my life to them,” the 34-year-old Staples said. “The doctor said there wasn’t a lot of heart damage because of the work they did.”Three women – Traci Birchler, Lauren Poindexter and Ruth Martin – performed CPR on Staples. Birchler did chest compressions, Martin monitored Staples’ pulse and ensured Poindexter’s breaths reached Staples’ lungs.Poindexter worked on the tournament medical staff on behalf of the Steadman Hawkins Clinic. She is a certified athletic trainer and was formerly certified as an emergency medical technician.Initially, the three women thought Staples was having a seizure, but soon determined that wasn’t the case and began CPR. Poindexter said she remained calm throughout the ordeal. “I just believe through all my training it’s a level of comfort,” she said. “It’s something we came to expect in EMT training. We were expected to be highly skilled and ready for any scenario.””When it seemed as if he wasn’t coming out of his supposed seizure, we checked his vital signs and found he had no pulse and wasn’t breathing,” Poindexter said.
The Monday before the tournament, Staples suffered some chest pain, but dismissed the pain as minor and planned to see the doctor the following week. The night before the Saturday men’s doubles tournament at Ford Park, he made sure he drank a lot of water. He felt fine other than a little fatigue in the morning, having already played a match. When the second match rolled around, Staples’ heart quit as he walked across the court.”I didn’t feel anything other than a little fatigue and then my breath leaving me and then falling down on the court,” he said.
He remembers later looking up at the sky while on a stretcher.The three women performed CPR on him before a crew from the Eagle County Ambulance District showed up and gave Staples a shock from a portable defibrillator called an AED, or automated external defibrillator.The defibrillator contributed saving Staples’ life, said Fred Morrison, general manager of the ambulance district, also known as the Eagle County Health Service District.”Vail fire came, deployed an AED, shocked him and got him back,” Morrison said.The ambulance district purchased several AEDs to carry on emergency vehicles such as fire trucks and ambulances and store in high-traffic areas like the Vilar Center, Morrison said. A recorded voice on the AED tells the user how to give an electrical shock, which helps reset electrical conduction in the heart, Morrison said.After Staples received the shock, he was taken to Vail Valley Medical Center, where doctors stabilized him and sent him to an Aurora hospital by helicopter.”Saturday and Sunday are a little blurry,” Staples said.
Doctors in Aurora used three stents to support two of his arteries which were 95 percent blocked. Staples now takes a “cocktail” of pills for high cholesterol and blood thinning.Judging how Staples’ describes his health, one wouldn’t think he’d be a candidate for cardiac arrest. He exercises regularly and his diet is not bad, he said.”You just never expect it to happen to me but it did,” he said.Still, a history of cholesterol haunts Staples’ family. Years ago his father suffered a cardiac arrest in a similar situation – on a hand ball court.
Staples likely will take Lipitor for the rest of his life to curb cholesterol, he said.While recovering from the cardiac arrest, the father of two children watched the World Cup on television and three weeks later returned to his general law practice. He’s eating healthier and exercising more.He also has a different perspective on life. “Obviously I value things more,” he said. “I value the time with my wife, my kids and my family.”Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado