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Huntley man saved after sudden cardiac arrest by defibrillator vest

HUNTLEY – Gene Schubert said he had never been familiar with the LifeVest before his cardiologist recommended it to him late last year.

The 86-year-old Huntley man’s pacemaker had just been removed because of an infection, and because of his continued risk for sudden cardiac arrest, Dr. Hemal Nayak with University of Chicago Medicine recommended he wear the external defibrillator device.

“It was kind of a pain in the neck to wear,” Schubert said. “But it worked. It did the job.”

About a month after he began wearing the vest full time, Schubert’s heart rate was jolted back to normal by the device after he suffered sudden cardiac arrest Jan. 18.

Schubert said he has no memory of the late morning incident, which occurred in the hallway of his Huntley home.

“All of a sudden I just found myself [on] the floor in a pool of blood,” Schubert said. “I had gone to the washroom, evidently, and my wife and I were here alone. I called her and she called 911 right away.”

In the time he can’t remember, the LifeVest strapped around Schubert’s torso delivered a shock when its sensors detected the irregular heart rhythm.

Medical experts say a patient’s survival chances from sudden cardiac arrest drops 10 percent with each passing minute. The timely jolt from the vest saved his life as first responders made their way to Schubert’s house, Dr. Nayak said.

“Despite the fantastic work the rescue squads do, the odds of surviving a cardiac arrest is anywhere from 10 to 15 percent,” Nayak said. “You have to hope that somebody with him knows how to do CPR or that [the] rescue squad gets to him in time.”

Nayak said the LifeVest, which is made by Zoll Medical Corporation, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2001, and he’s been recommending it a lot more recently because he’s more familiar with the technology and more confident that it works. The average patient doesn’t meet the criteria, he said, but he recommends it two to three times a month to cardiology patients.

Schubert, a father of five, grandfather of 10, and great-grandfather of two, already has had a new internal device implanted, and is recovering from the injuries he sustained in the fall.

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