Dave Durbin

Effingham resident Dave Durbin recently suffered from a sudden heart attack. But due to the fast response of his son-in-law and daughter-in-law, he is back home recovering. Pictured (left to right) are Sheri Barnett, Dave Durbin, Clara Ann Durbin and Rob Loy, all of Effingham.

By Kim Jansen

News Report Staff

The Durbin curse is what family members refer to it as.

And they know it all too well!

Effingham residents Dave and Clara Ann Durbin have lost several family members to massive heart attacks, including their son, Troy Durbin, who died in 2004 at the age of 40 after he went into cardiac arrest while walking in the Dieterich Fourth of July parade.

But, Dave had been very fortunate when it came to his heart health.

He walked each day, exercised regularly, and overall, lived a healthy lifestyle.

On January 30, that all changed for the 75-year-old man after he went into cardiac arrest.

Dave had a 99 percent blockage of the left anterior descending or LAD. Because the LAD is the left main artery, when it is blocked, the condition is known as the Widowmaker, due to the low rate of survival.

Although less than 10 percent of people nationwide survive sudden cardiac arrest, Dave was fortunate, thanks to fast-acting family members trained in CPR, a quick responding ambulance crew, a prepared local hospital team, a smooth air transport and a highly-trained staff at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.

“It is nothing more than a miracle. He is a living miracle,” said Clara Ann, who has been married to Dave for 55 years. “I am here to tell you right now, it was God’s hand placing everyone at the right place at the right time, or we would not have him here today.”

For Dave to survive this type of heart attack, Clara Ann is correct that everything had to line up just right. Her daughter-in-law, Sheri Barnett, who is a nurse practitioner and has taught CPR for 25 years, agreed that the American Heart Association’s Chain of Survival in this case led to the positive outcome.

The Chain of Survival refers to a series of actions that, when put into motion, reduce the mortality associated with cardiac arrest, and according to Sheri, the Chain of Survival in the case of her father-in-law is what saved his life.

“He was incredibly lucky,” said Sheri. “Healthwise, he is phenomenal. He is the poster child of why we need to know CPR. That Chain of Survival came in to play in this case, and that is why he survived.”

Dave’s cardiac arrest began on January 30, after he retired to his bedroom to exercise and watch the State of the Union.

Clara Ann was in the other room when she heard a “gurgling” noise from the bedroom, and upon entering the bedroom, she saw that her husband was in distress and in need of help.

“I jumped up and ran to the bedroom,” said Clara Ann, who said she tried to assist her husband, but was unsure on what to do. “I was scared, so I ran to the living room and the only number I could think to call was my daughter’s cell phone.”

Clara Ann told her daughter, Penni Loy, that she needed help, and Penni instructed her to hang up and call 911. While Clara Ann was calling 911, Penni and her husband, Rob Loy, who also is trained in CPR and was an EMT, headed to help and called Sheri, who lives just a few houses down.

Upon arriving at the house, Sheri’s EMS training kicked in, and she immediately rolled Dave onto his back and started high-quality chest compressions as they waited for help to arrive.

“When I arrived, he was in full cardiac arrest,” said Sheri, adding he was not breathing and had no pulse. “I knew that high-quality compressions would buy me time until the EMTs got there.”

A few minutes after Sheri started compressions, Rob and Penny arrived. Rob and Sheri were able to move Dave into a better position, and Rob was able to take over chest compressions.

A few minutes later, the EMT crew was there, and because of Sheri’s knowledge, she was able to yell out to the crew of what was needed, including a defibrillator.

“It went very, very quickly,” said Sheri. “The EMS arrived and was able to defibrillate him quickly.”

The one shock from the defibrillator was able to convert Dave’s heart back into a rhythm.

Both, Sheri and Rob, agreed performing CPR on a family member is difficult, but their training kicked in and they were able to take control of the situation.

“You sure don’t like doing CPR on a family member, but if you have to, you have to,” said Rob. “The training kicks in and takes over.”

Sheri admits she was scared after accessing the situation because she knew that death was a likely outcome.

“Quite frankly, I was absolutely terrified,” she said. “Having been doing this for as long as I have, I knew how bad outcomes are for this. It was a slim chance of survival. He was incredibly lucky because CPR was started as quickly as possible.”

The Abbott EMS crew transported Dave to HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital, where he was then lifted by Air Evac to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield.

“It was pretty fast and furious,” said Rob. “Our fast response time was the key. The quicker response, the better the outcome.”

Rob added that if any of the links in the Chain of Survival would have been weak, his father-in-law would not be here today.

“If Sheri wasn’t at home or if I wasn’t at home, it wouldn’t have worked out the way it did,” said Rob. “It feels wonderful that we were able to be there and put our training into place. It was a blessing from God.”

Sheri was glad she was able to help save Dave’s life.

“I can’t even tell you how thankful that I am that Rob thought to call me and say can you help. I am incredibly humbled and incredibly thankful,” said Sheri.

Dave had no prior symptoms to indicate that he had a blockage in his heart, other than he had been more tired than usual over the past few weeks.

“This is one of those things you cannot predict,” said Sheri. “This happens a lot, where people don’t have symptoms until an event happens.”

Sheri added without the Chain of Survival, the outcome could have been fatal.

“The crews did a phenomenal job, and I am so thankful they were there,” said Sheri. “Everybody did a great job. This took an entire team of people to save his life.”

Clara Ann is just happy her husband is back home where he belongs and recovering.

Following his heart attack, Dave spent a few days at Heartland Christian Village in Neoga, where he completed rehabilitation. He also has some memory loss due to the loss of oxygen during the cardiac arrest, but for the most part, he is back to his old self.

“They told me he may never be 100 percent, but how many people are,” said Clara Ann with a laugh. “I am just so thankful. He would not be here today had they not got here when they did.”

Both, Sheri and Rob, agree it is important for everyone to be trained in First Aid and CPR, so they can be ready in an emergency situation.

According to Sheri, the CPR procedures are updated every five years, based on science and studies, and it is recommended that providers renew their certification every two years.

Rob agreed it is best to be prepared.

“You never know when you are going to be in a situation,” said Rob, adding his training helped save a life. “I am sure glad to have my father-in-law around.”

To learn more about the heart health and CPR, visit the American Heart Association’s website at www.heart.org.

CPR classes are held regularly at HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital in Effingham. A full list of hospital classes can be found at www.stanthonyshospital.org/Events-Classes.