A Matter of Life & Death

A Matter of Life & Death

Knowing what to do with the proper equipment onboard during sudden cardiac arrest can help avert a tragedy.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler — July 2002

 More of this Feature

• Part 1: SCA
• Part 2: SCA
• Part 3: SCA

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I knew something was up when halfway through the 36-hour, 110-mile-offshore chartered tilefishing trip I was skippering, I heard the sharp, quick, distinctive whistle one of my mates was famous for. He was busy getting whole squid baits ready for our 20-odd fishermen to use on our next drift while the rest of us worked the deck. "Hey Cap, y'better come here and take a look at this guy. He doesn't look so good," he said as he gestured into the cabin area.

I had just horsed a rather large fish into the hold and was getting ready to replenish the bait buckets of several of the guys on the rail when I got the high sign. I made my way around to the cabin entrance, opened the sliding door, and saw one of my fares lying on his back on the banquette seat near the dining table. His face was white with a tinge of blue. One arm dangled almost to the floor, while the other was draped across his chest. I knew he was dead before I even felt for a pulse. "He said he was going to lie down," his distraught brother said later. "Told me he didn't feel so good."

I made the call, and a Coast Guard helicopter was dispatched to intercept the boat. The deceased, as well as the man's brother, was removed by sled, after which I continued heading back to the dock. Several days later I received word that the man had died of sudden cardiac arrest.

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is usually caused by an electrical disruption of the heart whereby the regular heartbeat becomes ineffective. This is known as ventricular fibrillation and results in a lack of blood flow and loss of pulse, blood pressure, and consciousness, and without proper intervention, death.

The possibility of SCA happening to you or a member of your crew or family or friends while aboard is something you should take seriously. Statistics show that less than five percent of the 350,000 people stricken with SCA each year in the United States survive.

The last thing we want to think about on a gloriously sunny and calm day on the water is dealing with a medical emergency. But just as we have set routines for maintenance and safety and never leave the dock without a fastidious check of all ship systems, it should be just as important to everybody onboard that this type of crisis could happen at any time. Being as prepared as is practical and knowing what to do and how to perform the necessary procedures can save a life.

Next page > SCA continued > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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