At left, Firefighter Wayne Bishop; right, Sergeant Greg Pavnica
A man collapsed in the library lot a couple of hours before kickoff for the USC game last fall—a 31-year-old man, in full cardiac arrest. NDSP Sergeant Greg Pavnica was first on scene. “The father of the victim was performing CPR on his son,” says Pavnica.
Pavnica saved the man’s life with shocks from an AED—an automatic external defibrillator. The victim has since made a full recovery and has 100 percent neurological function.
Troy Pflugner, a representative from Cardiac Science, manufacturer of the AEDs used on campus, was on campus in late December to present certificates to Pavnica and Firefighter Wayne Bishop, who both saved lives at football games this year using the company’s AED.
“There is no better payment for us than hearing a life is saved,” says Pflugner—and the University had a remarkable year with four lives saved, three of them at football games.
Sudden cardiac deaths outside hospitals have a poor survival rate—only 3 percent to 5 percent. With trained responders and the right equipment, the survival rate can be as high as 86 percent.
Says Mike Seamon, associate vice president for campus safety and director of game day operations, “We’ve been told that if these individuals were just in their neighborhoods walking their dogs, they’d have died. Their survival is due to fast response and the quality of care. Cardiac arrests, outside the stadium…it’s daunting. We couldn’t be more proud of the response of our personnel and the fact they were able to help save these people.”
While it’s unusual for a 31-year-old man to have a massive heart attack, Pflugner points out that of the 365,000 Americans who die of cardiac arrest per year, 7,000 are youths.
“The critical factor is time,” says Pflugner. “With every minute that passes, there’s a 10 percent decrease in survival. The average call-to-shock time for a community relying on AED from a fire department is nine minutes.”
Another man—this one in his late 60s—collapsed and went into full cardiac arrest in the Joyce Center lot after the Boston College game. “We happened to be right there at Gate 6, and he was 500 feet away.”
Bishop was the first responder who administered defibrillation. Dr. Mark Walsh, a Memorial Hospital emergency room doctor who volunteers on game days, joined Bishop and other responders to stabilize and transport the victim, who has since made a full recovery.
A third victim collapsed near Gate D immediately after the Air Force game—in close proximity to a South Bend Fire Department ambulance. The rescue was initiated by South Bend fire paramedics, again assisted by Walsh.
In an incident unrelated to game day, a fourth life was saved by an AED over the summer. A jogger, a 20-year-old student, collapsed early one morning near the Guglielmino Athletic Facility. The life-saving shock was administered by former Fire Chief Bill Farhat.
“Four lives saved in a year is truly remarkable,” Pflugner says. “We recognize the efforts and courage of the first responders. The AEDs don’t jump off the wall.”
Phil Johnson, director of the Notre Dame Security Police, says, “It’s by the remarkable teamwork on the ground that saves are made. There are a lot of people behind the police, fire and EMTs—for example, the communications personnel who dispatch responders, and the officers who direct traffic to get an ambulance to the scene. I’m really proud of Greg and Wayne and all the work they
do. Our work makes a difference in people’s lives and strengthens the fabric of our community, and this is a shining example.”