FAIR HAVEN: BACK FROM DEATH, WITH THANKS

jay campbell 032014Jay Campbell, center, chats with MONOC paramedics Mike Welsh, left, and Marcelo Aguirre during his visit to the Fair Haven First Aid Squad Thursday night. Below, Campbell poses with his family and the emergency responders who teamed up to save him from cardiac arrest earlier this year.  (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

jay campbell 032014 2The bug had been making its way through the Campbell residence in Fair Haven when Jay Campbell told his wife he wasn’t feeling well and was heading to bed early that Sunday evening in January.

So a short time later, when Leslie Campbell heard a gurgling sound, she raced to grab the pail she’d used to get her son through the illness. But the instant she reached the bedroom and saw her husband lying with his mouth agape and his eyes rolled upward, she knew something far more terrible than the flu had gotten hold of him.

Minutes later, 59-year-old Jay Campbell was, by the metrics of medicine, dead. But two young cops – responding to an “open-line” call in which the 911 dispatcher could only hear the sound of a woman shouting the name ‘Jay’ – began what became a rapid-response team effort to bring him back to life.

On Thursday night, Jay Campbell, his wife and two children paid a visit to the Fair Haven First Aid Squad headquarters to thank the men and women who’d jolted him with electricity, shoved a tube down his throat, stuck him with needles and compressed his ribs until six of them cracked – all with the objective of saving him.

The meeting was an occasion for laughter and damp eyes. MONOC paramedic Marcelo Aguirre introduced himself to Campbell as “the one who put a tube down your throat,” an action that he said prompted Campbell to take a swing at him.

“I heard that I didn’t go easily,” Campbell said with a smile.

“You were giving us hell,” said Aguirre. “That was a good sign.”

Before he was fighting, though, Campbell’s lifeless chest been pounded by Leslie, performing CPR even as she called 911. It had also gotten two zaps from an automated external defibrillator at the hands of Patrolman John Koetzner and Special Officer Rob Henne, who were just blocks away from the Haddon Park residence when the call came in.

The device, said Aguirre, only delivers the charge if it fails to detect vital signs.

If not for those actions – the ‘witnessed’ event, the immediate start of CPR and the defib – Campbell would almost certainly be dead or brain-dead, Aguirre said. The chances of bringing someone back from a severe cardiac episode are rare, he said.

“I’m surprised the American Heart Association hasn’t contacted him,” Aguirre told redbankgreen.

Henne, a 22-year-old borough native who had just graduated from the police academy last May, called the save a “textbook” case of following procedures.

“Everything they taught us in the academy was just how it played out,” he told redbankgreen.

The emotional magnitude of what he’d been part of didn’t hit him until a few days later, Henne said. Others in the squad room could barely contain their amazement at Campbell’s recovery.

“I’ve never had anybody walk back in here after something like that,” said former fire chief and squad captain Derek DeBree.

Emergency personnel credited two pieces of technology in the save: the AED, and an AutoPulse board, to which a victim is strapped so that an inflatable cuff can encircle the chest and provide regular and deeply effective compressions. DeBree said the town has two, at a cost of about $15,000 each.

Campbell, on leave from his job at a medical office management company, said he’s still recovering. And the thought of all that was done to save his life brings a tear to his eye, he said.

“January fifth– that’s my new birthday,” Campbell told the squad. “Except we don’t drink anymore. Or smoke cigars. Or eat bad food.”

Campbell said he and his wife plan to help the squad organize a CPR class for borough residents in the near future.

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