AED saves the life of Drayson Center member
Those who played a role in saving Sam Chafin’s life gather for a special dinner at Clara’s Restaurant in Redlands at his invitation. They are (front row, from left): Doria Linares, RN; Sam Chafin, MS, CSCLS; Jesse Lichtenfeld, EMT; (back row, from left) Don Sease, MBA; Tom Lymperopoulos; Aaron Fletcher, MT (ASCP); and Tom Kirk.
It had been a typical day for Sam Chafin, MS, CSCLS—a round of golf and some games of racquetball at Loma Linda University Drayson Center.
On July 5, he had just completed a partial game of racquetball singles with his friend and doubles partner, Aaron Fletcher.
Both work together at Loma Linda University Medical Center’s clinical laboratory—Aaron as a full-time clinical laboratory scientist and Sam as per diem.
Sam retired in 1997 as an assistant professor of clinical laboratory sciences and former program director for the clinical laboratory sciences training program in the LLU School of Allied Health Professions.
For many years he also worked in LLUMC’s clinical laboratory in supervisory and leadership roles, continuing there on a per diem basis during his retirement. Aaron was a student of his during his teaching years.
Prior to finishing their singles match, Sam and Aaron joined a doubles game with Tom Lymperopoulos, owner and operator of a hair salon in Redlands, and Tom Kirk, a pre-analytic supervisor in LLUMC’s clinical laboratory.
That’s where Sam’s memory of the incident goes blank.
“Sam wobbled a little bit, stiffened, and laid down on the floor,” Tom Lymperopoulos recalls. “I didn’t know what to do, so I told someone to call 9-1-1.”
As Sam was later told upon waking up in the LLUMC emergency room, he had suffered a major heart attack. He was also told that he would undergo major bypass surgery.
Jesse Lichtenfeld, EMT, who works on an ambulance in Riverside, had been playing racquetball in the next court.
“I’m not much of a racquetball player,” Jesse admits. “A friend talked me into playing a game of singles, and then staying for one more match.”
As he was resting for a few moments with his racquet still dangling from his wrist, he noticed a commotion in the next court.
A man was face down. His partner and opponents hovered around him with desperate expressions. One of them, Tom Kirk, had begun doing chest compressions but was only too happy to let someone with more experience take over.
Jesse immediately noted Sam’s agonal breathing and ashen color—both typical of an individual in the final stages of dying.
“I flipped him over and he stopped breathing entirely,” Jesse recalls. “He didn’t have a pulse either.”
Jesse had noticed on his way in that Drayson Center had an automated external defibrillator (AED) on the premises.
“Bring me the AED,” he said. Tom Kirk went to find it.
Also playing in the next court was Doria Linares, RN, a Victorville resident who works for Premiere Surgery in Colton.
She had been told, “Sam is down,” and ran to the next court. Jesse gave her a quick summary. Doria opened Sam’s airway and began ventilations. Jesse continued chest compressions.
When the AED arrived, Jesse positioned the device, which read “Shock indicated.” They all stepped back while the AED shocked Sam’s heart back to life. A second reading by the AED said, “Shock not indicated.”
Sam had a pulse. Doria continued ventilations and Sam was just beginning to regain consciousness as the paramedics arrived.
Because of several blockages in his heart—including the main stem or “widow maker”—Sam underwent quadruple bypass surgery.
Don Sease, MBA, director of Drayson Center, is a personal friend of Sam’s, as well as a golfing partner.
“This is the first time we have had to use the AED at Drayson Center,” he explains. “I’m so glad we had it for Sam’s sake.”
About a year and a half ago, Sharon Robe, administrative director of heart transplantation for LLUMC’s Transplant Institute, had strongly encouraged Don to purchase an AED for Drayson Center.
“Sharon was persistent,” Don recalls. Later, Don Bender, manager of loss control and safety for Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center, happened to ask him, “Do you have an AED at Drayson Center?”
Don recalled Sharon’s suggestion, and Lori Langford, Drayson Center aquatics director at that time, was immediately assigned the task of researching the purchase of an AED for the facility.
In the fall of 2005, a new AED arrived and Drayson Center staff promptly received training.
Doria says simply, “The AED saved Sam’s life.”
A little more than a month after his brush with death, Sam is recovering nicely. His wife, Emma, is a registered nurse and has been nursing him back to health.
“I still tire easily when talking or moving around, and I have a little nausea,” he describes. “The fellows aren’t quite ready to give me back my racquet yet.”
Sam has had time to savor the miracle he experienced.
“Jesse told me he didn’t know why he was there—since he doesn’t really consider himself a racquetball player,” Sam remembers, “but I know why.”
Jesse also informed Sam that, in the 30 or so instances he had seen of people at that level of severity, Sam was the only one he knew who had survived.
“God must have something special for you to do,” he told Sam when he later stopped by the emergency room to check on Sam’s condition.
To show appreciation for those who stepped in to save his life, Sam invited the group to Clara’s Restaurant in Redlands for dinner on the evening of August 10.
“These people are more than friends,” Sam points out. “They each had a part in saving my life.”
By Larry Kidder, MA