Quick thinking, AED machine saves Viera teen’s life after treadmill tumble
Bill Sick, left, Jack Rhodes John Lynch and Amanda Miller (not pictured) helped save Lexi Sima’s life after she fell off a treadmill at a fitness center.
photo by George White
Twelve minutes of miracles by four bystanders Feb. 2 — highlighted by CPR and by fresh batteries in an optional AED — no doubt saved the life of Lexi Sima, 16, of Viera.
The miracle: no after effects from when she went flying off her treadmill at full pace at Oraya Fitness Gym in Viera.
The gym had an AED, Automated External Defibrillator, a portable electronic device that diagnoses and shocks the patients’ heart out of Ventricular Fibrillation (VF) which causes Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). During SCA, blood stops flowing and after three to five minutes, irreversible brain/tissue damage may begin to occur.
“It threw her like she weighed nothing,’’ said gym regular Bill Sick of Viera, a four-sport athlete through college and former lifeguard.
Member Amanda Miller just happened to look left as she was running on a treadmill to spot Lexi on the floor, and immediately went over to try to get a pulse, but Lexi was unresponsive and gasping for breath. Miller, who majored in Health Sciences and minored in Health Education, including instruction of CPR, performed CPR until others could take over and then ran to get the AED from gym staff.
Sick and gym patrons Jack Rhodes and John Lynch continued CPR and started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation “just to keep the blood flowing inside of her and give her some air, whatever we could do,’’ Sick said.
When minutes passed without Lexi responding — as two other drowning victims had for him during lifeguard rescues many years previously — Sick, 58, yelled for Rhodes to get the AED going.
“He grabbed the machine, read the instructions, and in a minute put the shock on her. The first time we shocked her we got an immediate pulse back and she started to breathe a little bit,” he said.
Added Rhodes: “I did 20 years in the military and every year we would train. Honestly I was probably in more of a panic mode than I’d like to admit. It was really easy. The very first thing it said was to shock. I thought ‘This is real.’ It was terrifying. We slapped it on and she came back.”
Sick remembers his mantra during the ordeal.
“Keep the blood flowing, keep giving her CPR and mouth-to- mouth, keep that blood going inside her, keep the oxygen so there is no brain damage by the time they get here. I was thinking about the paramedics the whole time. I think it was about 12 minutes,’’ he said.
Added Lynch: “He pushed the button. I started an extra set of compressions and it (Lexi’s heart) kicked in. The AED said ‘heart beating. Stop CPR.’ To be honest, I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what just happened. It was a blur. Fantastic,’’ he said.
Lexi was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando. Doctors later installed an internal defibrillator to shock her heart back into rhythm if need be.
Oraya Fitness Gym owner Tony Hopkins purchased his external AED in 2007 for about $2,000, but it was never used. Its battery had run down and been replaced only six months previously.
“It sat there for seven, eight years, and it could have sat there forever, but I’ll tell you what, the time when somebody’s life was saved by it, it makes you feel good that you had it around,’’ he said.
Lexi will start her junior year at Viera High School with a new view on life.
“It’s kind of made me step out of my box a little bit to do more to help people,’’ she said.
Her mom said Lexi has not had another problem. An AED readout confirmed her good health. Now, she wants AEDs in more places and heart screenings for high school student athletes.
“You have to understand coming from my side of the story with my child,’’ she pauses to collect herself, still emotional, looking at Lexi. “Just to know their heart’s OK gives you peace of mind.’’
“God put us in the right position at the right time to help out and be there,’’ Sick said. “And praise God because he had just updated those batteries. She is alive because of that and she didn’t have any brain damage after not breathing (on her own) for 12 minutes,’’
The lifesavers met with Lexi, each with a broad smile and hug, right where she had collapsed, glad that the story turned miracle.
“I was really proud of my gym members for stepping in and helping out,’’ Hopkins said.”
For Miller, who could not attend the meeting, the miracle meant even more because she saw herself in Lexi.
“I was a student at Viera High School just like her some years back,” Miller said. “I am so glad for her that she will get to go on and graduate and have a life, like I did. I know how that would have devastated my family if that were me and it had gone another way.”