Plum man saved by family, first responders after cardiac arrest
One day in February, after having worked a shift at Hillview Motors in Greensburg, Kevin Warner didn’t feel well, so he lay down.
The Plum resident woke up three days later at UPMC Presbyterian, having gone into cardiac arrest.
“I knew I was having some type of SVT event,” Warner said. “My heart was beating rapidly. I’ve had them in the past. I just laid down and tried to be comfortable. Next thing you know, I was waking up in (Presbyterian hospital). Nothing (happened at work) that could be related to that. I can remember being quite uncomfortable and thinking that I got run over by a milk truck or something.”
SVT stands for supraventricular tachycardia, an abnormally fast heart beat.
Plum EMS Operations Director Brian Maloney talked about the incident Monday night at a council meeting in which Warner’s wife and son, along with an Allegheny County telecommunications officer and multiple borough emergency responders, were recognized as heroes by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association.
Maloney said Sharon and Zachary Warner, 16, could hear Kevin breathing strangely and later found him unresponsive.
He called the breathing “agonal respiration,” or “the last breaths that people take.”
Zachary called 911, and the dispatcher told him how to do chest compressions. Zachary did so for about 10 minutes, until Holiday Park firefighters and EMS arrived.
Firefighters administered a shock from an automated external defibrillator, and EMS administered fluids and medication through a line similar to an IV.
They eventually got Warner’s heart to start beating again and transferred him to UPMC East and then UPMC Presbyterian for treatment. His heartbeat stabilized after 27 minutes.
“That’s an incredibly long time,” Maloney said. “If it wasn’t for what his son did and the chest compressions, I wouldn’t anticipate the outcome and the way it turned out.”
Maloney commended Zachary for his effort and noted standard protocol is to swap out medics every minute to maintain a high level of chest compressions.
The teen said the one thing going through his mind while trying to save his dad was “don’t stop.”
“It’s amazing that he recovered,” said Zachary, whowants to become a firefighter or paramedic as a result of the experience.
Cheryl Rickens, co-chair of the Pittsburgh-based Western Pennsylvania chapter of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association, presented certificates, pins and Life Savers candy to Warner’s family and those who responded.
“In the Pittsburgh area, because of our wealth of EMS and hospital care, we tend to be on the higher side (of cardiac arrest survival),” Rickens said. “In this area, we’ve been 12 up to 20 percent. Nationally, we’re usually in the top five of cardiac survival.”
Warner, who thanked everyone who worked to save his life, found some humor in what happened.
“I see this whole thing as a bunch of links in a chain that helped pull me through all this. Each one of you played a very important role … I couldn’t have done it without you. Of course, you wouldn’t have done it without me,” he said. “Thank you all.”
The Warner family had a special meeting with the county dispatcher, firefighters and EMS personnel before the council meeting.
Council President Mike Doyle commended the first responders and said borough firefighters and EMS are some of the best in the world.
Maloney recommended Zachary and Sharon Warner, along with volunteers, staff and hospital personnel, be recognized with the Allegheny County EMS Council’s EMS Champion award. It’s unclear when that council would respond.
“When we get dispatched for a cardiac arrest, we always do everything we possibly can,” Maloney said. “Tonight is a great result of everybody’s hard work and effort.”
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .