Saved By Two Off-Duty Heroes

Portable defibrillator, fast action saves woman

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Bernice Loflin was an extremely lucky woman Aug. 25 at the Mazatzal Casino, but it had nothing to do with winning money.

The 64-year-old Deer Creek resident came within minutes of death after going into cardiac arrest while gambling at the casino.

Off-duty Diamond Star Fire Captain John Wisner, who was working as a security guard in the casino at the time, used an automated external defibrillator (AED) to restart Loflin's heart, bringing her back to life.

Loflin said her stomach was not feeling well that day and went outside the casino to get some fresh air.

Feeling better, she returned to the casino to play some slots, but then began to feel clammy.

That was the last thing she remembered before falling backward, striking her head on a slot machine as she fell.

Wisner, who was on his lunch break, heard there was an emergency situation and started to walk toward the location when his supervisor called him on the radio to assist.

Wisner asked for the AED machine which, when connected to Loflin, indicated that she needed a jolt or shock to restart her heart.

"I was glad I was there," the Deer Creek woman said. "If the defibrillators were not there, I would have been a goner. They said I was clinically dead."

When she opened her eyes, she noticed everyone standing around her.

"They were telling me what happened," she said. "I did not know what happened."

Loflin spent four days in the hospital and was released Tuesday, Aug. 29.

Loflin's husband, Larry, said doctors told them that if the defibrillator had not been used right away, his wife would have died.

At the onset of the emergency, a waitress asked Payson Fire Department Captain Toby Waugh, who was off-duty playing slots at the casino, if he thought Wisner would need some assistance.

Waugh said he looked behind him and heard Wisner yell "clear," before delivering the shock with the AED.

Waugh came over as the AED was taking readings to see if another shock was necessary, or if more CPR was needed.

"The lady opened her eyes and regained consciousness," Waugh said.

Wisner said the Payson Fire Department arrived, and he and Waugh then went into an assistance mode.

Wisner, who teaches people how to use AEDs, said this was the first time he has had to use the machine on an actual person to possibly save a life.

He said the irony of it was that he had just taught a class on how to use the machine the night before.

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Bernice Loflin is happy to be alive after a portable defibrillator was used to bring her back to life after suffering a heart attack Aug. 25 inside the Mazatzal Casino.

Waugh said the AED is self-explanatory and can walk a regular person through the necessary life-saving steps.

Wisner said he, at first, had no idea what was wrong with Loflin and wondered if she had been knocked out or had a seizure.

He said he knew the seriousness of the situation when he saw the woman's face turning a purplish color, indicating no blood circulation.

That's when Wisner asked another security guard to get one of the two AEDs the casino purchased in February for this type of an emergency.

The Diamond Star Fire captain, who is a medic, said that once a person goes into cardiac arrest, the survival rate is 80 percent. He said this percentage continues to drop the longer a patient goes without treatment.

Wisner said if the casino employees had not acted as quickly as they did, Loflin's chances of living would have been slim since the Payson Fire Department was not close by.

"The fire department was three minutes behind my shock," he said.

"When we shocked her she was in the 50-50 (survival) range," he added. "It was an extremely good day for her to go to the casino."

Wisner said there are many steps that are necessary to get an AED into a business -- the hospital must approve use of the machine and a person must be trained and designated to run the program.

Wisner said if he had not been working at the casino that night, he thinks one of his co-workers could have used the AED. He said all casino workers have been trained to use the defibrillator.

Because of the high number of elderly customers that frequent the casino, Wisner said there was a good chance he would eventually need to use the AED, but never expected to use it so shortly after the program began.

Farrell Thompson, marketing director for the Mazatzal Casino, said they are bursting with pride because of the way their employees handled the emergency.

"We are so proud of our employees -- that they had the training to provide (what was needed)," he said.

Payson now has 13 AEDs placed in various locations throughout town.

The Payson Fire Department coordinates the placement and training courses for the $1,500 life-saving machines through a public access defibrillation program.

Any business or individual wishing to purchase AEDs, or donate money to this program, should contact Defibrillation Program Coordinator Dan Bramble at (928) 474-5242, ext. 300.

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