By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
After quadruple bypass surgery several days ago, Lenny Hawes is fortunate to be alive.
Quick action by the staff at Oak Mountain State Park made it possible for Hawes to get to the hospital for his eventual surgery. Hawes, a park employee, was playing golf on his day off when he was stricken.
“Mr. Hawes was playing golf with a nurse friend (Chris Foster) on the 10th hole closest to the pro shop, and Chris Payne (golf course supervisor) and Bill Nefferdorf (golf course maintenance worker) grabbed the AED (automated external defibrillator) and took off on a golf cart when the call came in,” Park Superintendent Kelly Ezell said. “It is nothing short of a miracle that it happened when it did, where it did and that the staff thought to grab the AED when their friend and coworker was down.”
Nefferdorf said when the call came in at the pro shop, they didn’t know who was in distress on the 10th green.
“I grabbed the defibrillator and took off in a golf cart,” Nefferdorf said. “Chris Payne followed. When I got there, Chris Foster was performing CPR on Lenny. He said get the defibrillator and I started following everything he said to do. We got the pads and took the covers off and attached them to Lenny. Then I pressed the button and the machine started scanning.
“I was performing CPR while Chris was getting the breathing mask on. Then the defibrillator said to get back. It zapped him and he jumped about 10 inches off ground. Lenny came back from that and started breathing. Chris said to keep giving him CPR. I was directing the ambulance down the cart path, so Chris Payne continued the CPR. All three of us were working to bring Lenny back.”
Ezell said the reason an AED was quickly available was because of an initiative by the City of Pelham.
“The Pelham Fire Department put AEDs in many businesses in Pelham last year and thankfully included Oak Mountain State Park in that program,” Ezell said. “Up to that point Oak Mountain had only two units in the park. Pelham furnished an additional four units. Because of their efforts, there was an AED located in the pro shop. Fire Chief Tim Honeycutt and EMS Director Matt Maples made sure that we had the additional units, and they take care of servicing all of our units here at the park. Pelham Fire and Rescue is a great partner to Oak Mountain State Park.”
Maples said he approached the Pelham City Council last year about developing a public access defibrillator (PAD) program, which led to deploying the extra units to Oak Mountain State Park.
“We were able to get the funding through the city council to purchase about 50 AEDs to be distributed throughout the city,” Maples said. “We were able to place additional units at Oak Mountain State Park. We were very fortunate. Even though Oak Mountain had an older unit, we were able to get them new ones about two months before the event on the golf course occurred.”
The new units gave Oak Mountain the most up-to-date AED technology to use in any cardiac episode at the park.
“This technology makes the AED very easy for the lay person to use in a public setting,” Maples said. “That is our goal, so that anybody without any medical training can utilize one of these devices to save someone’s life. And we want them to be as publicly accessible as possible.”
In layman’s terms, Maples said the electrical pulse from an AED terminates the lethal cardiac rhythm, allowing the heart to resume a normal heartbeat.
“The incident at Oak Mountain was the second time one of the new AEDs has been used in the past two months,” he said. “It absolutely saves lives. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) alone isn’t nearly as effective as when you incorporate an AED into the process of saving someone’s life.
“The more we can get these AEDs out there in the public, the more success we’ll have in resuscitating people. Time is critical. Luckily Mr. Hawes was playing with people who knew to call the pro shop.”