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Defibrillator at Hyde Center in Newton saves a man's life

Posted by Tom Coakley  September 13, 2011 06:13 PM

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A 50-year-old man who collapsed during a basketball game at the Hyde Community Center in Newton last week was revived thanks to an automatic defibrillator that had been installed there through the efforts of a local doctor.

Chuck Conley of Newton was sitting and talking to a friend when he began to feel faint and sat back in his chair.

Friends quickly came to his aid, gently laying Conley on the floor and beginning to monitor his breathing and pulse. Within seconds, that pulse had stopped and he was no longer breathing. Conley’s friends, one of whom happened to be Celtics strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo, began CPR.

When CPR failed to quickly revive Conley, Doo grabbed the automated external defibrillator (AED), a simple-to-use machine that is designed for bystanders and bridges the critical moments between the beginning of cardiac arrhythmia and the arrival of paramedics. By sheer coincidence, Conley had been sitting right underneath the machine.

Doo connected the AED, which detected an arrhythmia and applied one shock. By the time police arrived just before 10 p.m. last Wednesday night, Conley had a pulse.

Conley was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and later released.

Credit is now being given not just to Conley’s friends who applied CPR and deployed the AED, but also to a nearby doctor whose successful lobbying for the AED’s installation proved life-saving.

Dr. Matthew Shuster, a geriatrician with Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, lives just across a field from the Hyde Community Center. He said he has frequented the various basketball leagues that rent the court on weeknights for years.

After friend Stu Williams passed away in 2001 while playing basketball in a Newton league, Shuster pressed for various athletic venues in town to install AED machines.

"It took three or four years," Shuster said, "but we decided after that we had to have the machine, to honor his memory and use it if necessary."

A machine was donated to the Hyde (as it’s called by regulars) in 2005, and Shuster assumed the responsibility of maintaining the machine, periodically updating its software, checking the pads, changing the batteries and running diagnostic tests.

That diligent maintenance paid off in a big way last week.

"We feel really great that we were able to help save somebody’s life," Shuster said, also crediting Doo, who was trained on the use of AEDs.

Shuster said that while the machines are not magic bullets, they are a vital tool in managing heart attacks, where every passing second means an increased risk of permanent brain damage or death.

"It’s not a slam dunk, everything has to come together," Shuster explained. "Even then, it’s not a guarantee. But if you can get it on immediately, you’re comfortable using it, and you know basic life support, there’s pretty decent success rate. Even if you wait just a few minutes - well, the success rate goes down every minute."

Shuster said that many more athletic venues have AED’s than did 10 years ago. He said a similar machine at the nearby Jewish Community Center has been used twice in recent years.

Still, some gyms and athletic centers haven’t gotten around to buying the equipment. Shuster says that’s inexcusable.

"I would say to them, ‘What’s really the cost of saving one person’s life?’ AED’s only cost a couple thousand dollars, and it used to be much more. That’s in the realm of what organizations should be able to come up with to potentially save a life. I feel it’s becoming almost a standard of care to have it in any large facility, public or private, that hosts large groups of people, especially for athletic events."

Shuster said he was in the process of getting an AED put in at another gym the basketball groups frequent.

Shuster was called to the center by its director and arrived after Conley was transported to the hospital. He said that after the incident, the man's teammates did the only thing they could--play more basketball.

"That’s exactly what you should do," Shuster said. "You can’t go to the hospital and stand around. It’s a jolt to see your good friend literally drop dead. I think it’s an emotional shock. The best way to handle was to do what they all are there for, which is to get some exercise."

"They were running pretty hard."

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