Thanking the lifesavers

  • Diana Hefley<br>For the Enterprise
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:45am

Jens McCown doesn’t recall the chest pains, losing consciousness or turning blue.

He also doesn’t remember the faces of the men who saved his life on a grocery store floor.

He does now.

On Friday, Jan. 7, three months after McCown’s heart stopped beating, the 32-year-old Lake Stevens man met the men for the first time.

“I was hoping I could do this. If they weren’t here, I’d … well, I’m thankful for them,” McCown said.

Early on Oct. 11, McCown was at work unloading boxes at the Mill Creek Albertsons. Co-workers tell him that he complained he wasn’t feeling well, then fell to the ground.

Firefighters and paramedics from Snohomish County Fire District 7 raced to his side from the nearby Mill Creek station, arriving within four minutes. The paramedics used a defibrillator to restart McCown’s heart.

Firefighters say it’s a miracle that McCown has made such a quick and complete recovery.

McCown struggles with short-term memory loss and had an internal defibrillator installed in his chest in case his heart stops again. However, he was back to work two months after his heart attack, and doctors expect his memory to return in the next year or two. Sometimes he can’t remember if he’s done the laundry.

His recovery is an example of the importance of automated external defibrillators in public places, District 7 assistant medical service officer Kevin Ryan said.

“As good as we are, we can’t always be there in four minutes,” he said, adding that a person’s chance of recovering from a cardiac arrest drops 10 percent with each passing minute.

The Albertsons store didn’t have a defibrillator, which are used to shock a heart back to normal rhythm. No one at the store knew CPR, either, Ryan said.

He is working to get the portable machines placed in more locations, including businesses, where the public can have access to them during an emergency.

On Friday, Jan. 7, McCown chatted with the crew and told them how his 8-year-old daughter Samantha had visited him in the hospital every day. He told them he is determined to have his “old life” back.

Firefighters Matt Abers, Darby Hepper, Randy Mickels, Greg Oakes, Rick Peters and Jeff Thompson accepted McCown’s gratitude. It’s not often firefighters get to talk with their patients after the emergency, the crew said.

“It’s good to share this moment,” Peters said.

A few firefighters also said they were impressed with McCown’s outlook on life.

“There’s a reason why it turned out this way,” McCown said. “I don’t know what it is, but maybe part of it is so I can help in some way.”

Diana Hefley is a reporter with The Herald in Everett.

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