Ephraim man’s life saved by making decision to call 911
EPHRAIM—Holidays like New Year’s Eve and birthdays are notorious for being bad times to make decisions. But on Dec. 31, 2016, his 40th birthday, an Ephraim man made a good decision that meant the difference between life and death.
When Andy Willden got what he thought was indigestion that night, he considered trying to sleep it off or ride it out.
“It went away for a few hours and then came back,” Willden said. The symptoms got continually worse, with profuse sweating, chest pain and nausea. Willden began feeling light-headed. That’s when he decided it was time to call 911.
During an “Extraordinary Save” recognition event on Friday, June 2, Kent Chapman, director of the Emergency Department at Sanpete Valley Hospital, described how the call triggered a series of timely actions and fortunate coincidences that saved Willden’s life in the nick of time.
“I think it’s important to emphasize that the symptoms of indigestion and a heart attack are strikingly similar,” Chapman said. “The best clinician in the world could not tell the difference between them by just talking to someone.”
Following the call to 911, Willden’s nausea and sweating, and the discomfort in his chest, got worse. Still, he was able to put on a jacket and walk to his front door to wait for EMTs from the Ephraim Ambulance Association.
Josh Rasmussen, an advanced EMT who lives down the street from Willden, heard the call over the radio. He got in his car and headed to Willden’s house. An Ephraim police officer also responded to the call.
“These EMTs are so amazing for the amount of training and service they complete in their personal time, and for the fact they are all volunteers,” noted Trina Johnson, trauma coordinator for Sanpete Valley.
Rasmussen was checking Willden’s vital signs as an ambulance full of his fellow EMTs arrived. They coaxed Willden onto a gurney. Moments later, his heart rate went into fibrillation, a sort of “quivering,” says Chapman, and Willden lost consciousness.
The EMTs administered chest compressions and used an electric-shock defibrillator to restart Willden’s heart as they loaded him into the ambulance and headed for the hospital.
Willden said when he regained consciousness, Rasmussen was standing above him.“The lights above him made a corona effect,” Willden said. “I know it sounds funny, but it looked just like a halo.”
At the hospital, the emergency team administered an EKG, which showed Willden had suffered a heart attack. The team also administered clot-busting medication.
Chapman said a key factor in the chain of care was that the EMTs not only applied heart compressions and a shock to the chest to get Willden’s heart going but also made sure he got an EKG and clot-busting medications promptly.
And, Chapman said, all that was accomplished within one-third of the national average of 30 minutes for initial diagnosis and treatment of a heart attack.
Minutes after receiving the clot-busting medication, Willden was on his way out to Utah Valley Medical Center to be treated by a cardiologist. The weather was terrible, Chapman said, with fog obscuring vision dramatically through Thistle Canyon. Yet the ambulance made it to Utah Valley in less than 60 minutes.
Today, Willden has made a full recovery and is happy to be around for his wife and three children.
“Thank you from my family and me,” Willden told the EMTs and Sanpete Valley staff. “Thanks just doesn’t cut it. I wish I could do something for you.”
To that Chapman replied, “Spread the word about 911, and how it saved your life when you could have tried to come in yourself, thinking, ‘I can get there just as fast on my own.’”
One of the main purposes for Extraordinary Save presentations is to get that word out, Chapman said. “We like to let people tell their story, get some messages out and see that these emergency responders are recognized for what they do.\”
“The really big message with this case is that you made the right decision in calling the ambulance,” Chapman told Willden. “If your wife had driven you over, you might not be here right now.”