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Share your story: Butch & Susie Gibbs

On the evening of April 2, 2004, at the age of 55, I had a rather “shocking” experience when I suffered a sudden cardiac arrest shortly after arriving home after acting in a community play.

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My wife, Susie, immediately began CPR, our local volunteer EMS group arrived with their AED in 2-3 minutes and had the first shock off in about four minutes. The ambulance, which had to come from 22 miles away, arrived in 25 minutes and began giving the cardiac drugs. After about 45 minutes, the combination of CPR, 22 AED shocks, and the drugs, my heartbeat was back to stay. I was taken to our local hospital 22 miles away and then was flown to a Des Moines hospital.

I received an implanted defibrillator and eight days later, I walked out of the hospital and went back to work in six weeks---just like a normal person---or as Susie says, “as normal as I was before.”

Susie and I felt there was a reason that I became part of the 5% of sudden cardiac arrest victims to survive. That reason—we believe—is to help spread the word on the importance of knowing how to do CPR and how to use an AED. 

We became American Heart Association volunteers for their CPR and AED activities and You’re the Cure advocates in 2005 and have lobbied lawmakers in Des Moines for funds to provide AEDs for rural areas where the arrival of an ambulance can be lengthy and to be placed where large groups of people gather and in Washington, DC, where we urged Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa to keep funding the Rural & Community Access to Emergency Medical Devices program. This program made the AED available to our rural small southern Iowa volunteer EMS group who saved my life. We were a part of a group of CPR instructors who went to Washington, D.C., and taught the new “CPR Anytime” class to staff members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives. We have taught numerous CPR/AED classes to area groups and healthcare personnel. We also helped raise money and obtain grants to purchase AEDs for all the school buildings and law enforcement cars in Wayne County and for other area locations, helped get a law passed requiring all students in Iowa schools to take a CPR class before they can graduate, and provided all the instruction to students and staff at our county’s schools. We also teach and demonstrate Hands-Only CPR for the AHA to various businesses and organizations and at different festivals and celebrations.

This is our small way in paying it forward so that others may also have a second chance at life.

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