Laura and I just returned from San Diego, where my father is in the cardiac care unit of UCSD Medical Center. On Wednesday, he was at a leadership conference, and out of nowhere, he collapsed to the floor. Somebody noticed his heart had stopped, so they started CPR, but CPR doesn't do a whole lot for the condition my dad experienced. Luckily, the hotel he was in happened to have an automated external defibrillator (AED) on hand, which they placed on his chest, and after two jolts, started his heart again and brought him back alive. Within hours, he was basically fine again.

normal heartbeat
Normal heartbeat
ventricular fibrillation
Ventricular fibrillation

The condition my father experienced is ventricular fibrillation (VF), where the electrical activity of the heart causes it to lose its coordination and stop pumping blood. This is not the same as a heart attack, which is usually a problem with the muscle or blockage. The survival rate on VF is 4% outside of the hospital. Four percent. Scary. The AED saved his life. We're so lucky that one was nearby and that we still have a father.

So, since not many victims of cardiac arrest and VF in particular survive, my dad's a bit of a celebrity now, and various doctors and interns have come in to say hello. His picture and story are even going to be used in publications for San Diego's Project Heart Beat, a program to make AEDs ubiquitous. My dad's company, Terex, is going to place AEDs in every plant and office building. They're so cheap (you can even order them on and so easy to use (basically automatic) that there's no reason public places, hotels, office buildings, etc. shouldn't have them. So yeah, we're big fans now.

Anyway, we're blessed that my father is still with us, and I guarantee we won't take any of our family for granted anymore. Events like this seem to have that effect.

Update: I guess my sister wrote an update too.