Commentary: After AEDs saved his life, he crusades for their placement

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How do you realize the value of a human life? There are many ways really, but for me, the true clarity came from my death. Yes, that’s right, I died; five times to be exact. My name is Chris Knight, and because of a miraculous second chance at life, I am taking this opportunity to share  my story with you.

Currently, I am the vice president of retail sales for KVII Television in Amarillo, Texas. I have a wife of 29 years (Joyce) and a son of 25 (A.J.). In August 2008, Joyce and I took a trip to Naperville, Ill., for my nephew’s wedding. We enjoyed a few days of reuniting with family, playing golf and catching up. On the day of the wedding, we were on our way out of the hotel, and that’s when it happened. I experienced sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). My heart completely stopped and I collapsed dead right there in the hotel lobby. Joyce began performing CPR and 9-1-1 was called. Within five minutes, the first responder arrived.

Janie was a Naperville police officer who was just a block or so away from the hotel. However, more importantly, she was equipped with and trained to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). The city of Naperville has provided all of their officers with an AED in their patrol vehicles. Because of this policy, I was able to have a chance at surviving.

Moments after her services, EMS was on site. I was loaded into the ambulance and while en route to Edward Hospital, I once again fell victim to SCA, and again an AED was used to keep me alive.

Upon arrival at Edward, I was taken immediately to surgery where Mark Duerinck, MD, performed the operation. While on the table, Duerinck installed four stents and two balloons, during which time, SCA occurred on three separate occasions. Again, I was revived--three more times. The whole process took 56 minutes.

I had now gone through surgery, was intubated, sedated and placed on approximately 15 different machines to keep me alive. I remained sedated for eight days during which time, I was cared for by an amazing ICU staff at Edward. I was slowly weaned off the machines and recovered to approximately 50 percent of normal over the next 21 days. With many thoughts, prayers, amazing support of my wife and son and the aid of the entire medical staff, I was able to return home.

The experience drastically changed my life forever. I quit smoking, follow a strict diet and exercise seven days a week. More importantly, I now have a chance to use this experience to help save other lives.

My staff at KVII, in a combined effort with Great Plains AG Credit, Cardiac Science--a company that offers AEDs as well as other cardiac care devices--and the Cardiologist Center of Amarillo, has begun a campaign to provide the entire Panhandle of Texas with AEDs. The initial focus, like Naperville, is to properly equip every first responder. We also are pushing this endeavor into the rural areas, so the citizens of these townships and municipalities can have a chance to make it to the nearest healthcare facility. Our goal is to provide 100 new AEDs per year over the next five years.

I firmly believe that this movement will greatly impact the people of the Panhandle for years to come. Finally, I hope it encourages you, the reader, to pursue a similar endeavor for your environment. 

Chris Knight is vice president of retail sales for KVII Television in Amarillo, Texas. He can be reached at cknight@kvii.com.