Richard Schmidt, 76, was just about to board his flight home to Sacramento after a two-week vacation here last month when his heart suddenly stopped and he collapsed at the jetway at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.
That’s when several passengers behind him, including a nurse and off-duty Honolulu firefighter, went into action. Feeling no pulse, they started CPR and used an airport automated external defibrillator, or AED, to shock his heart. After a single shock, Schmidt regained consciousness and was rushed to Kaiser Permanente Moanalua Medical Center where he had triple bypass heart surgery on Jan. 24. Following his recovery, he met one of the good Samaritans face-to-face at a news conference today before boarding his flight back home.
“I am so grateful for … the strangers and the bystanders who stepped in at a moment’s notice and helped me. It happened so quickly,” said Schmidt, a retired 40-year newspaper photographer for the Sacramento Bee who worked in the early 1970s at the former Honolulu Star-Bulletin. “Within two minutes after I had fallen they applied one shock and brought me back. I cant tell you how that makes me feel. These things happen so rapidly … with critical moments of timing that I had nothing to do with. I’m a lucky dude.”
Schmidt is the 50th person saved with an AED at Hawaii’s 13 airports, which have about 200 devices spread throughout their terminals in case of emergencies. About 100 AEDs were first stationed in the airports on six islands in 2006. There have been 69 cardiac arrests since then.
Salesi Maumau, the off-duty Honolulu firefighter who performed CPR for about one to two minutes before airline personnel brought the AED, became emotional when seeing the man he helped revive for the first time since the incident on Jan. 15. Maumau was headed to the mainland on the same flight and witnessed him “fall right on his face like a domino.”
“It’s very humbling. It’s very gratifying to see that he’s doing well and that I’m kind of fulfilling a purpose of helping people in a way that requires being on your game mentally and physically,” said Maumau, 30. “(The AED) was absolutely important. If it was not there then he would not have gotten the shock and his heart would not have reset.”
The survival rate at the state’s airports since AEDs were added is 60 percent, compared to the community survival rate of less than 10 percent. While CPR buys time, AEDs are necessary to restart the heart. Airport medical director Jim Ireland said the AEDs are placed roughly one to two minutes apart in walking distance throughout the facilities.
“If you have a cardiac arrest where your heart stops, every minute that goes by without a defibrillator, your chance of survival goes down approximately 10 percent. So you can imagine if you had to wait 10 minutes, your chance of survival would be less than 10 percent,” Ireland said. “We trained over 1,000 people at the airports on how to use the AEDs and do CPR. It’s the highest cardiac arrest survival rate in the state and it’s one of the highest in the country. We see over and over again that these devices along with CPR training saves lives.”