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A Tale of Two Toms

This is the tale of two Toms.

One Tom is famous, a singer, an international legend. The other Tom is local, a tech guy, an avid cyclist.

Other than their first names, they don’t seem to have much in common, except one big thing – they both suffered a Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

The untimely passing of music iconic Tom Petty on October 2, 2017, shines the stage lights on Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), which has been speculated as the cause of his death. The full details of what happened have not been released.

According to the American Heart Association though, more than 350,000 people suffer a SCA each year in the United States, with nearly 90 percent of them dying. It can happen to anyone, no matter their age, their health history, or their lifestyle.

Unfortunately, the final moments for Tom Petty – the front man of the Heartbreakers – is heartbreaking.

The tale of our other Tom – Tom Krause – has a much happier ending. He survived.

Two years ago this past June, Krause was training with his bicycling club for a two-week bicycle ride where they planned to cycle roughly 1,000 miles from Cornog, PA, to Niagara Falls, NY. Even though he been treated for an arterial blockage a decade earlier, he exercised regularly, cycling 50 to 60 miles per ride. But just days prior to the event, as he was sitting at work typing an email, his heart stopped.

A colleague who was sitting across from Krause jokingly asked him if he was sleeping. Overhearing the question, a second co-worker ran to see Krause slumped over and he immediately recognized the signs of a cardiac episode.

The co-workers quickly began performing CPR, while another dialed 9-1-1.

Fortunately for Krause, his employer, Clark’s Shoes, had hosted a CPR demonstration several years earlier, which gave his colleagues the confidence and knowledge to make swift, life-saving decisions. CPR can be performed by anyone and when a bystander rapidly takes action, it can double or triple the victim’s chance of survival.

Increasing bystander CPR training is a major initiative for Penn Medicine’s Center for Resuscitation Science Department. To accomplish this goal, the center launched Philadelphia’s Mobile CPR Project in 2016, a public health program that aims to educate as many Philadelphians as possible in hands-only CPR for free. The Mobile CPR van travels to training sessions, bringing all the necessary materials to provide life-saving training to those who may not be able to seek classes on their own.

Similarly in the suburbs, Chester County Hospital’s Community Health and Wellness Department collaborates with local fire companies to regularly schedule free, interactive Hands-Only CPR classes and group sessions throughout the community.

Susan Pizzi, Community Health Educator who organizes Chester County Hospital’s Hands-Only CPR classes, says, “We actively take this training out to the community because we know it can save lives. The more neighbors, community groups, young people, and colleagues we can teach, the better the odds are that there will be a bystander who will know exactly what to do when time matters the most.”

Why is this important? When the heart stops pumping, blood cannot reach the brain. It therefore becomes critical that immediate bystanders – friends, family, strangers, co-workers, anyone – know exactly what to do and start CPR immediately. There is no time to spare. Knowing CPR, whether it is traditional or hands-only, calling 9-1-1 right away and operating an AED, can save lives.

And while the statistics may not seem uplifting - of the 350,000 people who suffered SCA in 2016, the AHA reports only 12 percent survived – Ben Abella, MD, MPhil, director of the Penn Center for Resuscitation Science, says it’s an improvement over historic rates, and the upward trend in survival rates in recent years indicates these community outreach efforts and others aimed at improving access to AEDs may be starting to move the needle.

"We're finally beginning to see some progress," he told HealthDay.

In Tom Krause’s case, the CPR training his colleagues learned at the office helped them know how to keep his heart pumping while waiting for help.

Once medical help arrived, an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) was placed on Krause’s chest and a shock was delivered. CPR was continued and approximately one minute later, he regained a pulse. In the ambulance, Krause’s heart stopped two more times and he required additional CPR and defibrillation.

At the hospital, doctors quickly performed an emergency catheterization to insert two medicated stents for a new blockage. Two days later, Krause received an Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator (ICD) to treat the possibility of a recurrent cardiac arrest. Krause recovered from surgery and returned to his desk at Clark’s and to his spot in the cycling club.

And this is where the tale of the two Toms part ways. Tom Krause’s story ends well; Tom Petty’s life ended. The difference? The speed at which life-saving measures – CPR, calling 9-1-1 and using an AED – were started.

Today, Krause is training for his next cycling event, telling stories of his latest travels, and writing poetry. After his SCA, he penned a poem about the reason he survived. He wrote, in part:

I have asked many of people what they would do –
sadly CPR would be done by a very few.
It is important to know CPR; hands-only is fine –
But it is no good if you don’t use it in time.
Due to my friends, I am back on my bike and driving my car –
Do your loved ones a favor and learn CPR.


Chester County Hospital’s Barbara Curtis, Marketing & Advertising Specialist, contributed content to this article.


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