McNairys take heartOn Jan. 16, Phil McNairy was enacting his usual workout at the Red Wing YMCA. The retiree said he monitors his diet and was well aware of the importance of good health.
By: Rebecca Rudolph, The Republican Eagle
On Jan. 16, Phil McNairy was enacting his usual workout at the Red Wing YMCA. The retiree said he monitors his diet and was well aware of the importance of good health.
So he didn’t expect anything was wrong as he stepped off the elliptical. But unlike every other day he worked out, he fell.
“I thought he just lost his balance,” said his wife who was working out as well. That was until he did not respond to physical prompting to get up.
“For all I knew, he was totally dead,” she said. She yelled for help and the response was instant.
“An off-duty nurse jumped in and helped to provide CPR, a retired police man helped out with CPR, a Mayo employee who was working here at the time jumped in and helped, YMCA staff jumped in and helped. It was a community response,” YMCA Executive Director Mike Melstad said.
That response included police officers who heard about the emergency on their scanners and came to see if more help was needed. It included multiple 911 calls.
About three minutes after he went into cardiac arrest, a community member certified in using an AED device shocked McNairy back to life.
“Time is muscle,” Mayo Clinic’s Emergency Department and Urgent Care Director Jane Gisslen said. McNairy could have suffered brain damage had the device not been used in time.
Emergency vehicles arrived at the scene to find a coherent McNairy. He was then transported to Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing.
For Gisslen, the moment she heard about what had happened, she started coordinating care with the St. Marys Hospital, where she in turn would send McNairy.
Paramedics drove McNairy to Rochester where he was told that he would have to get a triple bypass surgery to remove the clot that had formed, resulting in his cardiac arrest.
“I knew if they were going to do that, they would crack my chest completely open, which they did, and then they automatically connect you up to a heart and lung machine so nothing inside me was functioning; it was all done by machine. That’s a scary thought,” McNairy said.
The collapse surprised the McNairys as Phil would not be a normal candidate for a cardiac arrest. A normal candidate for this event would be someone who does not exercise regularly and has a poor diet. Phil’s circumstance was a result of genetics, not lifestyle.
Five days after the fall at the gym, he entered a roughly eight-hour surgery. McNairy was back on his feet by the next day, healing well.
Linda McNairy is grateful. She also grateful for the support she received from the community the day he collapsed.
“I had somebody drive me here to the ER because obviously I wasn’t in any shape to drive my car at that point, just a lot of community concern and support — that’s important,” she said.
“Phil’s wife nearly lost her husband,” Gisslen said.
During the minutes Phil was on the YMCA floor, Linda McNairy thought she had.
“If it hadn’t been for those two things, people reacting quickly and that AED being there, I would probably be dead or severely brain damaged. Timing is everything,” Phil McNairy said.
As a result of this sobering experience, the two are working with Melstad at the YMCA to look into helping churches and businesses —
“where there are a lot of people gathered at any one point in time,” Linda McNairy said — purchase AEDs.
If they are purchased in bulk, the prices can be reduced, making these expensive devices more affordable.
Of equal importance to purchasing devices is being trained well in using them, the couple said.
“It isn’t a matter of it something’s going to happen — we’re all human and were all going to die - so it’s a matter of when something happens,” Melstad said, stressing the importance of CPR, AED and first aid training. “You have to think about, ‘Do I want to be one of the people standing on the sidelines not knowing what to do, or do I want to know what to do and be able to help?’”