Teamwork, technology help save one man's life
But Aug. 3, the Elkridge residents drove their son, Paul, to the Earth Treks Climbing Center, in Timonium, so he could take a bouldering class.
While Paul was in class, the Jesters decided to do some climbing as well.
But on his second climb, Ken Jester, 50, almost died.
"I got about 10 feet up, got a little dizzy and was about to say 'take' so my wife would take my weight," Jester said.
He never had the chance.
Jester experienced a coronary spasm, which led to cardiac arrhythmia -- a quick, irregular heartbeat that fails to move blood through the body.
He went unconscious and hung limp from his climbing harness.
On Aug. 20, Jester sat cross-legged on the floor at Earth Treks and, for the first time, met the people who saved his life.
Climbing at the center when Jester becamet unconscious were Andrea Vella-Camilleri, of Hampden, and Lynn Addie, of Lancaster, Pa., both nurses. Once they realized Jester was in trouble, they helped his wife get him to the ground.
Addie checked his pulse and heard him gasp for air. She began administering rescue breathing while Vella-Camilleri performed chest compressions.
"He wasn't moving at all," recalled Kjeld Lauritzen, an Owings Mills resident and graduate student at Towson University, who was also climbing at the time.
As a former employee at Earth Treks, Lauritzen had seen people fall and get injured before.
"Everything I've seen before this, it was someone's going to the hospital but he's going to live," Lauritzen said.
Lauritzen yelled for someone to call 911 and retrieved the automated external defibrillator from behind the counter.
Through CPR training, he knew how to use the defibrillator and followed the audio prompts.
"You put the patches on and it analyzes," he said.
The defibrillator decided that Jester needed a shock, and warned the others to stay clear.
Jester's heart resumed a regular beat after the first shock and he returned to consciousness around the time paramedics arrived.
Capt. Steve Adelsberger, Baltimore County Fire Department's public access defibrillator coordinator, said the climbers were correct in not waiting for the paramedics.
"When you have those sudden cardiac events, that's when the clock starts ticking," Adelsberger said.
In fact, if it hadn't been for Vella-Camilleri, Addie and Lauritzen, the odds would have been against Jester's survival.
"The doctor was saying that if your heart goes into arrhythmia outside of a hospital, your survival rate is 3 percent," Jester said.
The efforts of the three, however, would have been limited if it weren't for the defibrillator.
"CPR only buys time until the shock can be delivered," Adelsberger said.
The device was sold to Earth Treks by Rescue-One Training for Life Inc., based in Gaithersburg.
Rescue-One's founder and operations director, Jeremy Gruber, organized last week's gathering so that Jester could meet his life-savers -- and also to bring awareness to the devices.
Just a few years ago, the devices cost around $3,000 or $4,000 each, but now they can be purchased for around $2,000 with training included, Gruber said.
Rescue-One has sold 275 devices to the Baltimore County school system and Gruber said that there have been three uses in the schools this year.
"People still, I don't think, understand what these things can do," Gruber said.
They can apparently save the life of at least one man. Jester said that without the AED and three people who knew how to use it, "who knows what would have happened?"