MUKILTEO — It was a heated race.
Terry Burch was gunning around the track in second place at an outing with nine family members at Traxx Indoor Raceway. Carol, his wife of 29 years, was gaining ground behind him.
When Terry pulled his go-kart over to the side, Carol triumphantly sped by. “I kind of laughed,” she said.
He was still there the next lap around, less than a minute later. “I thought he’d been black flagged, so I kept going,” she said.
On the third lap, she noticed his head was tilted. She stopped this time.
“He didn’t have a pulse. He wasn’t breathing. He was completely gray,” she said.
She pulled him out of the go-kart and started CPR with the help of a cousin.
Chris Kruse, Traxx manager, grabbed the defibrillator from the office and called 911. He delivered that first jolt with the device about the time the fire department arrived.
“They did everything the way they were supposed to do it,” said Larry Hadland, medical services officer at the Mukilteo Fire Department.
Terry Burch, 56, is living proof, though the odds were against him.
He had a cardiac arrest, triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart. Death occurs within minutes without treatment. More than 320,000 people die from out-of-hospital cardiac arrests annually, according to the American Heart Association.
A defibrillator shocks the heart back in action, if used in time. Also critical, Hadland said, is “early recognition of the event, starting the 911 (response) and initiating CPR.”
Hadland said many places do not have a defibrillator, which costs about $1,500 to $2,000.
“In a public place that’s not an airport or a casino or hotel it is unusual to have one there and to have people deploy it,” Hadland said. “Most schools have them.”
Kruse said the racetrack bought the defibrillator about five years ago, but it had never been used.
“I’ve been here 19 years and that’s the first time we had anything like that happen,” said Kruse, an Eagle Scout with years of CPR certification.
The track has gas-powered go-karts that go 30-35 miles per hour. There is also a climbing wall where people wear Velcro suits to stick to it. Kruse said there have been only minor scrapes.
The defibrillator voiced easy-to-follow instructions of what to do, such as pulling off the pads and where to place them.
“I was surprised at how automatic it was,” Kruse said. “They are made so any layman can open it and use it without training.”
Hadland said 11 first responders from police and fire departments assisted in the call, which came in at about 2:38 p.m. Nov. 10. Medics arrived three minutes later.
A tiny defibrillator device was surgically implanted under Terry Burch’s skin near his collarbone during his four-day hospitalization.
He and Carol returned to Traxx last week for a photo. Not to race.
He isn’t medically approved to race cars. He’s grounded — for life. A pilot and mechanic at the Arlington Municipal Airport, he can’t fly a plane anymore. But he can still fix them.
Terry Burch, who has asthma, has limited memory of what happened that day. He recalls being winded, so he pulled over to use his inhaler. “Next thing I know, I was at the hospital.”
His wife was trained in CPR when she was a Safeway manager for 32 years.
The couple have three adult children, four grandchildren and an already paid-for vacation to Maui for their 30th wedding anniversary in March that “I would have missed out on,” he said.
They and a bunch of relatives had gone to Traxx when her brother, Don, was in town from New Zealand for their mom’s memorial service.
“He’s a race car driver,” Carol said. “We decided to race go-karts in his honor.”
Don was in first place during the race.
“I was chasing him,” Terry said. “I really wanted to beat her brother.”
Instead he beat death. Even better.