Jolted Back to Life

LifeVest Saves Patient

Dr. Laybon Jones listens to Dale Bordelon’s heart.

Dale Bordelon has defied death. Twice.

On two separate occasions last summer, the Vallejo resident suffered Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). Each life-threatening event came without warning, he says. “It turned me off like a switch.”

But Dale is alive today because each time his heart experienced SCA, it was jolted back into a regular rhythm by a special external defibrillator called a LifeVest.

Dale was wearing the LifeVest because his heart muscle had been weakened by a heart attack he had suffered in July. There is a big difference between a heart attack and SCA, according to the American Heart Association. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked, while a SCA is caused when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly.

Dale’s cardiologist, Laybon Jones, M.D., had prescribed the LifeVest for Dale because he was concerned he might be a SCA risk. Thankfully, Dale followed Dr. Jones’ orders to wear the portable defibrillator under his clothes, because it was called into life-saving action twice.

Wires and sensors worn under his clothes provided a life-saving jolt to Dale’s heart.

The first time it happened, Dale was home alone. “I was sitting at my kitchen table when, the next thing I knew, I was laying on the floor,” he recalls. “The vest had given me some shocks, and I came to. I didn’t have any warning; no pain, no dizziness. I just dropped.”

Dale fell unconscious because his heart had spiked into a dangerous rhythm called “ventricular fibrillation.” This condition causes a person’s heart to start beating so fast that it quivers or shakes, instead of pumping blood. The LifeVest detected his life-threatening arrhythmia and delivered a shock that returned his heartbeat to a normal pace.

SCA can be fatal if sufferers do not receive life-saving treatment within minutes, and the condition claims as many as 350,000 American lives each year. “Dr. Jones told me that it can take about three minutes for a code team in the hospital to get to a patient, but that the LifeVest can produce a shock within 30 seconds or less.

After he regained consciousness, family members drove Dale to the hospital, where he was scheduled for surgery to implant an ICD, or implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Then, the next day, another SCA hit without warning.

“When I came to that time, I was looking into the faces of about 10 people. I had just dropped,” observes the former Marine and state police officer. “I must have a pretty high threshold for pain.”

The technology has been around for several years, and NorthBay Healthcare’s cardiologists have been prescribing LifeVests to patients following heart attacks, before or after bypass surgery or stent replacement, as well as for cardiomyopathy or congestive heart failure.

Dale has since received a defibrillator, and says the incidents have changed his life. “Without that vest, I wouldn’t be here today talking about what happened to me.”

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