Oregon state law requires defibrillator for large operations

By JOHN SCHMITZ

For the Capital Press

A man whose failed heart was jump-started by an alert teenager will be at the Willamette Valley Ag Expo Nov. 17-19 to relive his harrowing experience.

He will also talk about Oregon's new law requiring some agri-businesses to have on hand the same device that saved his life.

Dale Wagasuki was refereeing a high school basketball game in Minnesota in 2007 when his heart stopped due to sudden cardiac arrest and he fell to the floor.

The 48-year-old pharmaceutical salesman said he would be in his grave today if it hadn't been for a 16-year-old girl who raced out of the stands to apply CPR and then shock Wagasuki's heart with an automated external defibrillator, or AED.

The electrical current from the portable defibrillator was credited with bringing him back to life. Wagasuki was so taken with the lightweight, portable defibrillator that he immediately gave up his job as a pharmaceutical rep and began selling AEDs around the Midwest.

Then his brother-in-law, Yakima-based Wilson Orchard and Nursery Supply owner Joe Perry, heard the story. He became an AED distributor himself and asked Wagasuki to work for him.

In addition to reliving his near-death experience, Wagasuki will demonstrate three of the five portable defibrillator brands he represents.

One unit, made by Cardiac Science, is fully automatic. "Once you put the pads on, a voice prompts you through every step," he said.

Demand for AEDs has increased in Oregon since the state Legislature passed SB 556 this year. The bill mandates that, starting Jan. 1, 2010, any facility with 50,000 square feet of floor space or more where people gather, or that employs 25 or more people, must have at least one AED.

Wagasuki, whose father died at age 53 from a heart attack, said the sudden cardiac arrest, or ventricular fibrillation, he experienced is different from a heart attack.

"A heart attack is a plumbing problem and generally involves symptoms such as chest pain and nausea. Sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical problem, and your heart stops; you're dead," he said.

Wagasuki said that every year about 350,000 people in the U.S. die of sudden cardiac arrest, and that the survival rate when no AED is used is less than 7 percent. With a portable defibrillator, it's 40 to 90 percent.

The AED the girl used was hanging on the gym wall, purchased a month before.

Perry said he has made several AED sales in Oregon and Washington, with fruit and fish packing houses being among his first customers.

AEDs range in price from $1,200 to $1,750.

Like smoke detectors, they're easy to maintain, he said.

"They're super-simple to use."

The batteries last three to five years. The pads must be replaced every two years if used.

Wagasuki will have his defibrillator display/demonstration in Wilson Orchard Supply's Wilson Safety booth (No. 27) and not the main Wilson booth.

Freelance writer John Schmitz is based in Salem, Ore. E-mail: johns6869@msn.com.

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