‘Mark was a ticking time bomb waiting to go off’
By all outward appearances, 66-year-old Mark Stanley of Centerville was physically fit and feeling fine. He exercised regularly, was an avid golfer, cyclist and runner, and quit smoking and drinking alcohol nearly 30 years ago.
“I felt great, healthy as a horse,” said Stanley, who has run nine marathons, many shorter road races and participated in the 62-mile Last Gasp bike ride from Sandwich to Provincetown.
The internal explosion occurred on a Friday morning last July, moments after Stanley finished his daily workout at the Fitness 500 gym in Hyannis. He collapsed on his way to the locker room, suffering sudden cardiac arrest caused by a blockage in the left anterior descending artery in his heart, also known as the “widow maker.” The ominous nickname is due to the high mortality rate of those who suffer such an attack.
However, Stanley beat the odds and survived, thanks to immediate response and expert care. He is alive and well today, and back on the road to a healthy life. He’s returned to work as a Realtor, is jogging again and training for this summer’s Pan-Mass Challenge, a 192-mile bike-a-thon across Massachusetts.
“They say I’m a member of the 7 Percent Club because 93 percent die from what happened to me,” said Stanley. “Actually, I did die, but they brought me back.”
Dr. McAuliffe, who is treating Mark in his cardiac rehabilitation, is definitive that his patient suffered “a lethal event terminated by the good fortune of trained bystanders and the AED (automated external defibrillator).
“The majority of people who have this happen don’t survive,” he said. “It’s called the ‘widow maker’ for good reason. Mark had a diseased heart and a significant arterial blockage. What happened to him was very rapid and frequently predictable. It was bad luck, but good luck, too, that it happened where it did.”
When Stanley collapsed at Fitness 500, Patrick Hill was nearby and immediately began administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) along with another person at the gym who aided in chest compressions. Hill is a firefighter with the Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Department and a trained EMT.
“Mark was pale and had no pulse,” said Hill. “I had them call 9-1-1 and then started CPR. We hooked him up to the AED, but didn’t use it when a slight pulse returned. Whether it’s fire or EMS related, we’re constantly training for real-life emergencies such as these.
“Early CPR saves lives. It’s not often that stories of this nature have a happy ending, but fortunately that day this one did.”
The ambulance from the Hyannis Fire Department, headquartered less than a mile away, arrived within minutes and Stanley was rushed to Cape Cod Hospital, only a mile from the gym. En route, he was revived several times with defibrillator paddles which electronically jolted his heart and restored normal rhythm.