Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome: It is as Bad as it Sounds — Part two of An essay in two parts by Bentz Kirby

Bentz Kirby

"So, when I feel disturbed about the deficiencies in my brain I remind myself that most do not survive this event and those who do are often in a vegetative state.  Indeed I am fortunate." -- Bentz Kirby

For part one of this essay read here.

(Continued from Monday, October 21, 2013)  May has filled me in on these events to the extent she can and how these events lead up to my survival.  I have no complete memory of the time after I pulled the car over until I awoke on Sunday.  Based upon her report and the fact I am alive, I am convinced that several miracles did occur. The first miracle is one I have already mentioned -- that I chose to take a different route than I originally planned. This placed me in the right place and right time to have the people who did assist me to be present.  Also, it was only a ten minute trip to St. Francis, the hospital in Greenville with the best heart surgeons.  If I had been in Pumpkintown on the way to Table Rock most likely the people necessary to resuscitate me would not have been available.   Second, May realized that EMS was not going to arrive quickly enough and got out of the car and starting waiving her arms.  A number of people stopped to assist.  Fortunately at least two men stopped who knew how administer CPR. At some time, the Easley Police arrived and they took over the CPR compressions.  This kept my blood circulating and oxygen going to my brain for the time I completely was gone.  Third, an off duty EMS technician with an AED machine arrived. If you do not know what an AED is it is a portable Automated External Defibrillator.  It is something that should be in all public areas and schools to be available in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest. The paramedic was able to direct those providing CPR and to apply the machine to me three times.


Fourth, I may owe some gratitude to ESPN and the Clemson Athletic Director as Clemson played their game that week on Thursday night on ESPN.  Had it been the usual Saturday afternoon game, traffic in Easley would have been at a standstill.  Most likely neither the paramedic nor the EMS ambulance would have been able to fight the football traffic and arrive in time to assist me and to get my heart beating again.  It is difficult for me to appreciate Clemson, but in this instance I am at least glad they played their game on Thursday.

Fifth, I consider the fact that it was only ten minutes to the hospital once my sinus rhythm had been restored.  My cousins had come from the family reunion to meet May at the hospital and they reported that no one was in the Emergency Room at St. Francis.  The Emergency Room was empty, even though it was a Saturday afternoon.  Additionally two of their surgeons were available and I was immediately wheeled into the operating room.  I take this as a miracle since two of their top heart surgeons were waiting for me when they brought me in.

May is a little fuzzy on the details as she was understandably upset during this time.   However she does recall the police and the ambulance with the paramedics arriving.  Among other things, May reports they applied an AED and administered Epinephrine to stimulate my heart.  She does not recall how long all of this took.  During this time period, she realized the EMS personnel were not going to take me to the hospital if I was not revived with a steady pulse.

Additionally her thoughts at this time were that I needed to breathe and that she was not ready for me to be gone.  As May said, “We had not discussed anything about this” before that moment.  Really though, do people sit down and discuss their death that often?  She also remembers that the police moved her away from me so that the paramedics could work on me.

According to the hospital notes, this all transpired in about seven to ten minutes.  To you, this may not seem like a series of miracles but it does to me.  Especially since I am here writing this for you to read.

After I had begun my recovery, May began to research SCDS.  Neither of us had heard of it before.  May found a site where people who were survivors post narratives about their experience with Sudden Cardiac Death.  The survival rate for this SCDS is around two percent (2%) so if it happens to you, the odds are against survival. Interestingly I have been told the best place to have this event is in a hospital with a defibrillator machine present.  I read many of the stories on the site May found and one thing is clear, almost all of my fellow survivors experienced a series of fortunate events which contributed to their survival.

As stated above, when I regained consciousness I awoke to find tubes down my throat and in all my extremities. I found my arms and legs had been restrained.  Additionally my chest had a number of burns on it from the AED machines. My breast bone also felt extremely painful from the CPR and would continue to hurt for months later.  From the little I do recall, I was very confused and could not talk or communicate.  I later came to understand that this was from damage to the language side to my brain.  I am still recovering and it is estimated it will take me about two years to fully recover.

Once my sinus rhythm had been restored, the EMS took me to St Francis in Greenville, SC.  Unlike the movies, they would not allow May to ride in the ambulance with me.  In fact, the Police initially would not let her leave the scene because she was so upset.

My cardiologist told me that my brain would not have survived had it not been for the persons who administered CPR and the paramedic with the AED machine.  This kept enough oxygen in my blood to prevent complete decimation of my brain.  So, when I feel disturbed about the deficiencies in my brain I remind myself that most do not survive this event and those who do are often in a vegetative state.  Indeed I am fortunate.

I also want to tell you that if you know of anyone in the hospital for a health reason and you can visit them, please do.  It makes a real difference.  My first moment of joy was waking up to see May’s beautiful face and to know I was still with her.  It is a lonely feeling to have a serious illness and be stuck in a hospital bed.  The presence of a friend makes a true difference to the person who is ill.  Fortunately, I got to see everyone but one person who came by to see me.  And, even though my memory is clouded by the sedatives, I recall all the visits by everyone.  Especially my two friends from Thomasville (GA) High School who proved that 40 years does not necessarily break the bonds of friendship.  I am convinced that one of the things that truly is worthy of taking from the Bible is Matthew 25 where Jesus instructs us to “visit the sick”.  We do need each other and you are more important than you realize.

Bentz and Anna

Also, a symptom of the post-traumatic shock from this event is the anxiety I feel about the effect of this event on May and my daughter Anna.  I cannot imagine how it must feel to watch someone you care about suddenly drop dead.  My brother died from cancer, but we had a lot of time to prepare for that experience.  I just hope they are coping with their feelings.

bentz and may

There is much more to this story and I hope to write more about my experience in the future.  Before closing, I am constrained to say a word about the subject most people seem curious about, “what it is like after you die.”  I get many questions, even almost a year later like -- “What did you see? Did you see a bright light? Did you see a tunnel of light?  Did you feel the presence of an angel? A dead relative?”  Well it is difficult to recall what went on in my brain during the time in question.  The most I can say I recall is being in a room with four doors and a presence asking me which door I was going to choose.  My response was that I am not going through any door as I was going back to be with my wife, May.  Regardless of what science tells us about the chemical effects the process of dying has on us as humans, I am convinced that if I did not feel so attached to May, that I would have chosen to leave the earth.  How is that for co-dependence?  But, I was determined to get back to her.  To the extent I had a choice, I am sure I made the correct choice.

As a result of the lack of oxygen I have significant damage to my brain, especially the speech center.  However, my situation is greatly improved and I find that writing and singing are two activities which help my recovery.  (Although writing this has taken about 10 times more than it would have previously.)  As a result of my situation and in appreciation for all of those who helped me in my time of need, I would like to promote a benefit to purchase some AED machines to be placed where they are needed.  Unfortunately, I need to conserve my energy to heal and cannot organize such an event at this time.  However, if there are any among you would like to promote such a benefit, I will be happy to assist your endeavor.

For more information contact

Bentz & Cindi ("smoking" a candy cigarette at Annie's & Kyle's wedding) -- Happy to be able to publish my friend's story. Keep on writing, Bentz. You are loved. -- cb