On Nov. 28, an alarm rang in the Atlanta International Airport and former Brentwood resident, Keith Murray knew immediately it was not a fire drill or terror alert. He recognized the sound as an automated external defibrillator and ran to lend assistance.
He was the right guy to be in the right place in the right time. Mr. Murray 43, now of Jupiter, Fla., makes his living training people in how to use automated external defibrillators, which are used to shock the human heart back into a normal rhythm during a heart attack. On that day he lived out one of his training sessions as he successfully used one of the life-saving devices on a fellow traveler.
"It was textbook how things went down,'' Mr. Murray said.
Pointing out defibrillator devices in public places is a hobby that Keith Murray's girlfriend, Denise Lopata, also a Brentwood native, teases him about. But when he disappeared for a short time as they waited for a connecting flight, following a recent trip to Pittsburgh, Ms. Lopata never imagined he was on a life-saving mission.
Mr. Murray's awareness of AED devices proved invaluable to an elderly man who suffered a heart attack at a nearby gate.
Every AED device is equipped with an alarm which sounds when the unit is opened. The alarm prevents theft and alerts others of an emergency situation.
Mr. Murray heard the alarm and rushed to offer assistance. He discovered two other travelers performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the victim who was lying on the floor. A fourth man was attempting to use the AED when Mr. Murray arrived and took over.
A lot of people worry that the AED is going to shock someone unnecessarily, but Mr. Murray explained that the device analyzes the heart rhythm and will only shock the heart if necessary to restore normal rhythm.
"They're so easy to use that a child can do it," Mr. Murray said.
Many people confuse the lifesaving aspects of CPR and an AED, according to Mr. Murray. "CPR is designed to keep the brain alive," he said. "What I was going to do (with the AED) was restart the heart."
Following the automated AED prompts, Mr. Murray placed the paddles on the victim's chest, waited for analysis and administered the necessary charge when instructed. The victim immediately regained a pulse and began breathing on his own.
Paramedics arrived and Mr. Murray's work was done. He rejoined his girlfriend who questioned his absence. "She thought I was joking. It took a little convincing," Mr. Murray said.
The whole incident took only about five minutes.
Mr. Murray left his name and phone number with the Delta Airlines gate agent as he rushed off to catch his own plane home. He was pleased to get a call later that day reporting that the victim was doing well in a local hospital.
The experience further convinced Mr. Murray of the importance of the AED devices he works with every day. He believes that within 10 years, they will become common household safety items, similar to fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.
Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.