Putnam: "It's a miracle I'm alive," says Williamston man who wants to pay it forward
WILLIAMSTON - Bill Fate, 63, is blunt.
“Six months ago, I was dead,” he said. “It’s a miracle I’m alive.”
On Sept. 11, he suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed in the driveway of a home in Delta Township. He’s in roofing sales and he was there to meet a customer who wasn’t yet home.
That’s when his luck – if you can call sudden cardiac arrest lucky – began to kick in. A passer-by just happened to see him lying in the driveway as she drove by. She knew CPR. She stopped, called for help and started chest compressions.
Fate only remembers waking up in the hospital. His heart, he was told, stopped four times — once in the driveway, once in the ambulance and twice in the emergency room — before it was stabilized. Having a CPR-trained good Samaritan, combined with an Eaton County Sheriff's officer with a defibrillator in his trunk, bought him time to get life-saving treatment.
Now Fate is paying it forward.
He agreed to speak at the Free Methodist Church in Williamston at the invitation of the Rev. Doug Bradshaw. Besides leading his congregation, Bradshaw also volunteers as chaplain for the Lansing Fire Department. About once a year Bradshaw’s church holds CPR training, spurred by Bradshaw's interaction with the first responders.
Before his attack, Fate was an occasional churchgoer. After the attack, he’s a regular.
In November, Fate told the congregation about his experience. After Fate's talk, a daylong CPR class swelled from its usual 20 to 44. Participants pay $75 per person.
Justin Conklin, a Lansing paramedic, conducts the classes as part of a private company he owns called HeartSaving Education. He teaches it in affiliation with the American Heart Association.
Fate and his wife, Tammy, took the class. Having someone there who was saved by CPR offered a dream teaching aid.
“To me it was a phenomenal thing to have him and his wife in class,” Conklin said.
Conklin wanted to give a discounted price to the churchgoers but Bradshaw insisted on paying the going rate for his efforts.
So Conklin used the extra money to buy a $1,500 defibrillator — also called an AED for automated external defibrillator — for the church. The church already has one on the main floor, and a group of church members are trained to use it.
Conklin delivered the second one last week.The new defibrillator will go downstairs near the children and youth areas.
Not all heart attack victims need the device. It detects whether a shock is required for sudden cardiac arrest then, for those who do need it, delivers a jolt to try to bring the heart into regular rhythm.
It’s important and more schools, malls, airports and even private homes have them on hand. The American Heart Association says the chances of survival plummet each minute without defibrillation after sudden cardiac arrest.
The AHA also reports that there are 383,000 victims of sudden cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year across the country. Less than 12% survive.
Fate said he wants to be ready to help someone the way he was helped.
He had the heart attack despite the fact that he was active, didn’t smoke and had regular checkups. He had no symptoms prior to the incident.
“Nobody knows when that could happen,” Fate said. “You’d hate to find somebody lying on the floor and you didn’t know what to do.”
Judy Putnam is a columnist with the Lansing State Journal. Contact her at (517) 267-1304 or at email@example.com. Follow her on twitter @judyputnam.