By Becca Y. Gregg
WYOMISSING, Pa. — It was a Wednesday night in early October when Fran Post and his girlfriend Jill returned to their Wyomissing condo from a date night.
The couple had been out for a nice dinner, followed by an evening drive.
Fran was standing in their kitchen, when, "I felt my heart kind of take off, act just in a way I've never really experienced before," the investment adviser, 37, said.
His recollection of the night ends there.
Twelve days later, he would wake up in a bed at Philadelphia's Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, unsure of why he was there or how he had gotten there.
"I had what's called a v-fib — ventricular fibrillation," Post said last week of the night of Oct. 9, when he collapsed in his kitchen and went into cardiac arrest. "I passed out, and my girlfriend, I'm lucky, was right behind me. She caught me, got me down to the floor, dialed 9-1-1 and started doing CPR on me."
The American Heart Association lists v-fib as the most serious of heart rhythm disturbances, characterized by the lower chambers of the heart quivering and the heart being unable to pump any blood, causing cardiac arrest.
"In the v-fib that I had, your heart is not beating," Post said. "You literally have minutes until the person dies."
Within minutes, Wyomissing Police Officer Matthew J. Henne and volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician Brandon Epting were there to get Post's heart back into a normal rhythm.
"I've done CPR on people dozens and dozens of times and I've lost count," Epting said. "Most of the time, resuscitations are not like Mr. Post's. Many times, they don't go home from the hospital."
According to Epting, their quick response was aided by the automated external defibrillator, or AED, in Henne's police vehicle.
The AED was provided by the Friends of Reading Hospital's HeartSAFE Berks County program. Since 2010, the group has put 250 AEDs in every police cruiser in Berks County and in every school district.
With Post, "we got a response very quickly, which was very good," Epting said.
Post, however, was no normal patient.
He was taken to Reading Hospital and then flown to Philadelphia to be seen by a specialized cardiologist who could deal with his unique set of circumstances.
"I've had a pacemaker since I was 9 months old," Post said.
When he was born in 1976, pacemakers weren't common in infants, especially newborns.
"Prior to be even being born, a doctor at Reading Hospital told my mom that it looked like there was something going on there with the heart," he said. "They sent us down to (Penn State Milton S.) Hershey Medical Center. They said, 'This is almost experimental. How are we going to do this? But we'll figure out a way.' "
Today, Post is fully dependent on his pacemaker, which he's had replaced numerous times over the years.
At Penn, Post was put in a medically induced coma to give his brain and body time to heal.
"This is now the sixth pacemaker that I've had," he said. "I had a lot of wiring in the heart that needed to be taken out. We were running out of room, so to speak."
During a 12-hour surgery, Post was fitted with a new pacemaker with a defibrillator component to it, a first for him.
By Oct. 19, he was recovering at home in Wyomissing.
Post has since returned to work.
And last week, he thanked Henne and Epting when the two were honored by Wyomissing Borough Council for their lifesaving actions.
"My prognosis is good; I feel great," Post said. "I'm just very, very thankful and grateful. My Thanksgiving came pretty early this year."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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