Dec. 27 was a dark and stormy night. Kim Blake remembers that detail because that was the night — technically afternoon — on which the service manager at McLendon Hardware in Renton saved a life.
A customer came into the store a little after 4 p.m. that day and told workers that another customer, a 52-year-old Renton man, had fallen to the ground of the parking lot.
Sharina Brock, another McLendon’s manager, rushed out to the parking lot and returned inside, where she announced that the man wasn’t breathing.
Blake, trained in CPR, grabbed the store’s Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and attached it to the fallen man. The laptop-sized machine jolted the man’s heart back to life, and Blake then performed CPR on him until Renton Fire and Emergency Services Department arrived.
“It felt like an hour and a half, but I bet you it was maybe five minutes,” Blake says of how long she performed CPR on the man.
She says it took another 45 minutes to get the man’s heart beating on its own.
Blake was honored Monday by the Renton City Council for saving the man’s life. February is Heart Month in Renton. Fire Chief I. David Daniels, in presenting the award to Blake, said Renton is among the “best” places in the world to have a heart attack because of Medic One and the training of Renton citizens and the availability of defibrilators.
Staff from Renton Fire and Emergency Services Department told Blake that the man would not have survived without the shock provided by the AED. Blake attached the AED to the man about two minutes after he collapsed.
Blake burst into tears when the Renton firefighters told her they had found a pulse on the man.
“They asked me ‘How does it feel to save a life?’ and I just lost it,” she recalls.
“Even having a baby, this was probably the most tense experience I’ve ever had,” she added.
Blake doesn’t know the name of the man she saved. All she knows is that he was 52 at the time and that he is alive. His mom called McLendon’s from Tennessee to deliver that good news.
The man was treated at Valley Medical Center. Renton Fire and Emergency Services Department was not able to reach the man or release his name.
He was saved by an AED purchased with $10,000 donated by Cheryl Webber-Veldwyk in 2007. Webber-Veldwyk is the mother of Nikki Veldwyk — saved by an AED after her heart stopped in a Dominos Pizza in the Highlands in September 2006. A defibrillator in Veldwyk’s chest now helps monitor her erratic heartbeats.
Webber-Veldwyk’s donation has purchased six AEDs installed at various Renton businesses and schools. But Veldwyk thinks McLendon’s AED is the first used.
Veldwyk is not happy about the Renton man’s collapse, but she’s happy about his survival.
“It’s unfortunate that man had a cardiac arrest, but I’m so happy someone was there and someone was trained in the store to use (the AED),” she said.
Blake is equally happy. She now intends to join Veldwyk and her mother in encouraging every business and gathering spot to install an AED. Renton requires an AED to be on hand at events attended by 300 or more people.
“I was actually kind of laughing when we got it,” Blake confesses. “Like what are the odds we’re going to have to use it? And tada!”