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St. Augustine Man Lives After His Wearable Defibrillator Saves Him

10:11 PM, Aug 1, 2011   |    comments
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ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- John Whitsett strummed a guitar Monday.  He works hard and he plays nicely in a band in St. Augustine. 

However, in February, "They diagnosed me with ... oh, how do you say it... ventricular tachycardia," Whitsett explained. It's a heart condition that can be fatal. 

In March, Whitsett was prescribed a wearable defibrillator - appropriately called a Life Vest -- which could jump-start his heart if it ever stopped.

Dr. Dinesh Pubbi, Whitsett's doctor, explained that the straps go around the patient's shoulders  and midsection.  "These are the electrodes," Pubbi said, "which charge up and this is where the gel comes out and will shock you." 

The device is connected to a small box that the patient clips to his waistband.  

Whitsett is thankful he was wearing the vest three weeks ago when he was at a bus stop.  

"I felt myself fading out and I didn't think anything of it.  I grabbed something," Whitsett recalled.  

He passed out. 

The defibrillator vest went into action and gave him a shock.

Whitsett didn't feel a thing. The next thing he knew he was on the ground talking to the bus driver.

"The bus driver said I can't let you get on the bus," Whitsett remembered. "I said, 'I'm fine. I just want to go home.'"

Chris Carter was the bus driver that day. He remembers the incident well.

He drove up and saw a man fall to the ground and start flopping around.

Carter said he called 911 and asked for help, and then Whitsett woke up and wanted to get on the bus.

Carter said, "I felt real bad about it but I told him, 'You got to wait until EMS gets here.' I said, 'I can't take you until they clear you.'" 

Monday, Carter was relieved to hear Whitsett is doing well.

Whitsett is in the 2-to-3 percent of the 40,000 Life Vest patients who actually have had the devices kick-start their hearts, Pubbi said.

"If you look at the numbers it doesn't sound like much, but to save that many people's lives... we hope no one has to use it, but it is a life saving device," Dr. Pubbi explained.

"That was three weeks ago,"  Whitsett quipped. He looks healthy and is rearing to go.

"Oh yeah.  I'm fine. I want to go out and do stuff!" And he is doing stuff.   

Whitsett is returned to work and has scheduled a gig with his band, Hard Nox.

It's all because of a life saving shock to his system.

Shortly after the vest shocked his heart, Whitsett went through surgery and now has an implanted defibrillator in his chest, similar to a pace maker. 

The vests are good for patients who are not immediately able to undergo surgery for an implanted defibrillator.  

First Coast News

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