Cruiser defibrillator credited with saving Danville man's life
By JASON SCHREIBER
Union Leader Correspondent | December 13. 2012 11:41PM
He was training for an agility test in hopes of becoming a police officer when he began clutching his chest and collapsed.
"At some point I remember waking up in the hospital and even then I have vague memories," the 45-year-old Danville father said from his room at Exeter Hospital.
Ethridge doesn't recall the moment when his heart stopped beating. All he knows is that he's lucky to be alive.
Doctors told Ethridge that he likely would have died if not for the automated external defibrillator inside Kingston Police Officer James Champion's cruiser.
At the time of his heart attack, Ethridge was running with Danville police Officer Michelle Cooper, a good friend who also had her cell phone, called 911, and immediately began CPR.
Champion arrived in his cruiser about two minutes later, along with Kingston Officer Michael Prescott.
While not all Kingston police vehicles are equipped with defibrillators, Champion had one in his cruiser and quickly put it to work before paramedics arrived. The small portable device provides electrical therapy through the use of electrode pads that stop potentially fatal heart arrhythmias.
After a few minutes, Ethridge's heart began beating again.
"He's really fortunate that everything fell into place. To have this work and to have him back, it's a miracle," Champion said. "His family is going to have him for Christmas. Talk about a second chance."
Ethridge had no history of heart problems and was unaware of the small blockage that caused his heart attack.
Doctors inserted a stent this week, and with no serious damage to his heart, Ethridge's prognosis looks good. He was expected to be released from the hospital Thursday and return home to his wife, Amanda, and 5-year-old son, Aidan.
Ethridge's survival story is proof that defibrillators are a life-saving device that should be in every police vehicle, Kingston Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr. said.
But at $1,700, the Zoll defibrillators are an expensive tool for small police departments like Kingston. The pads must also be replaced after each use at a cost of $180, Briggs said.
"Defibrillators are a wonderful piece of equipment. Unfortunately, due to the expense, we can't afford to put them in all cruisers. Fortunately there was a defibrillator in the cruiser Officer Champion was driving," Briggs said.
The three defibrillators in Kingston police cruisers were donated to the department a few years ago. Briggs said he's hoping to some day have four additional defibrillators so that all vehicles, including ones performing detail work, are equipped.
Sunday was the fourth time Kingston officers have used the defibrillators this year. While Ethridge was the only patient to be revived this year, Briggs said they were successful with two other patients in recent years.
"There's no question it's a life saver," said Ethridge, a former Danville selectman and Navy and civilian intelligence specialist who served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ethridge's wife said she would also like to see all cruisers equipped with defibrillators.
"I'm just so appreciative of how quick the response was and that they were able to do this for him," she said.
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Jason Schreiber may be reached at email@example.com.