October 27, 2011

Quick response saves devoted football fan at Vanderbilt game

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Jim Askew, a Vanderbilt alumnus and longtime football season ticket holder, was revived after a sudden cardiac arrest at last Saturday’s game. (Susan Urmy)

Quick response saves devoted football fan at Vanderbilt game

A Vanderbilt alumnus and longtime season ticket holder suffered a sudden cardiac arrest at Vanderbilt’s Homecoming game on Oct. 22.


Thanks to the quick response from Vanderbilt’s LifeFlight Event Medicine team and the presence of an automatic external defibrillator (AED), Jim Askew, 77, will be back in the stands in a few weeks cheering on his beloved Commodores.

Askew, VU ’56, was watching the game from his seat in the end zone, feeling fine, and relishing Vanderbilt’s 23-6 lead over Army. At halftime he moved to the S section on the Army side and positioned himself in row 70, near the top of the stands because it was less crowded.

As luck would have it, and unbeknownst to him, he sat near a group of physicians and nurses, two of whom were fellow alumnae, Katherine Shister Kohari (VU ’03), and pharmacist Virginia Dennis (VU '03), and her husband, Scott Dennis, ACNP, a nurse in Vanderbilt’s Burn Unit.

The last thing Askew remembers before his heart suddenly stopped beating is that Vanderbilt had the ball on the 35-yard line.

“I began to feel weak, and at that point I don’t know what happened,” he said three days later from his room at Vanderbilt University Hospital.

After he collapsed, Kohari began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while Scott Dennis started CPR. Resident physicians in the area joined in to help. An AED was used to restore Askew’s heart rate, and paramedics loaded him on the spine board and carefully transported him down 70 rows to an ambulance. By the time they got to the bottom of the stairs, Askew was breathing again.

He asked about the score of the game.

“It was such a great job on the behalf of everybody,” paramedic Chad Hollingsworth said. “This goes to show how important public-access AEDs are.”

Askew received an implantable cardiac defibrillator and was discharged to return to his home near Nashville’s Radnor Lake.

“I asked about going to the game on (the following) Saturday when Vandy plays Arkansas, but my wife won’t let me,” he said.