The morning of December 18, 2006 started out like the usual for the family of Dick and Linda Paplinski, but it ended up being a day that they and Deputy Jean Vath of the Martin County Sheriff’s Office will never forget.
“I actually have no memory of that day,” Dick Paplinski admits. “All I remember is about four days later, I woke up in Rochester.”
Linda, on the other hand, remembers everything. “Dick always gets up before me,” she recalled. “Around 7:30 a.m. I thought I heard him snoring in the other room and something told me to get up…I went to check on him and he was in his chair gasping.” Linda called 911 and then her neighbors, Ed and Judy Beckman, for help.
“I was in the Silver Lake area when the call arrived,” Vath said. “At the time of the call he was breathing and as part of our training we just start to think about what we’ll need, maybe CPR. When you get a call, you don’t think, you just do what you’re trained to do.”
“Vath arrived about a minute and a half after I called,” Linda said.
But at that time, Dick’s symptoms began to go downhill. “I had a pulse,” Vath said. “But I decided to get the defibrillator first, then administer CPR.” As Vath went out to her vehicle for her defibrillator, one of the neighbors, Ed Beckman, arrived and could not find a pulse. “He pulled Dick out of the chair and began administering CPR,” Linda said. Vath was able to hook up the defibrillator to Dick, and local law enforcement history was made.
“The defibrillator monitors everything and it said to administer one shock,” Vath said. “So we cleared everyone and it went.” One jolt was all it took to save Dick Paplinski from cardiac arrest. However, the Beckmans and Vath continued to perform CPR.
“She was very reassuring,” Linda said of Vath. “It’s helpful to have someone taking care of your loved one who makes eye contact with you and reassuring that things are being managed and under control.”
“I told her that the CPR was just helping him breath, even though he was breathing on his own,” Vath said. “We were giving him as much oxygen as we could.
As Gold Cross ambulance and other help arrived, the defibrillator was able to be transferred to Gold Cross equipment. “What they were able to do was keep my defibrillator’s pads on and then just reattach them to Gold Cross’s defibrillator,” Vath said. “My defibrillator kept a record of everything that happened from the time it was activated to the time it was switched over.” That record was helpful for the doctors who worked on Dick in Rochester.
“My heart is healthy,” Dick said. “Two weeks before I had a cardio and a stress test and there were no negative signs. My heart just arrested.”
The defibrillator used by Vath, along with several others, were donated to the Sheriff’s Office and Fairmont Police Department by the Martin County Area Foundation several years ago. “We can’t thank the foundation enough now,” Dick Paplinski said.
There is still no clear-cut answer to what happened to cause the cardiac arrest, but Dick knows he is very lucky. “What saved my life was distance,” he said. “If Jean had been 10 minutes away, who knows what would have happened.”
“It was a lot of people in the right place at the right time,” Vath agreed. “Judy Beckman has taught CPR at the Red Cross for almost 30 years, and she said it was the first time she had to use it on a real person.”
But thanks to those right people in the right place at the right time, Dick was able to enjoy Christmas with his family. He was released from the hospital shortly before Christmas Day.
“I stopped by to see them after Christmas,” Vath admitted. “It was good to see him walking and talking and having fun with his family.” Needless to say, Vath is one of the Paplinskis’ favorite people. “I always get a hug from him whenever I see him,” she said with a laugh.
“I was fortunate enough to have people that were trained nearby and a wife that was able to tell I was in deep doo-doo,” Dick said. “You’re looking at a very lucky guy.”
Reprinted from the Fairmont Sentinel