Jerry Wiesenhahn

Jim SoderbergSave Date: September 10, 2008
Activity: Attending a meeting

As a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy in 1958, I’ve been educating and counseling patients about medications and health issues for 52 years – more than half a century. I, like most other pharmacists, have always tried to do what I can to not only counsel patients on their medications, but to do whatever it takes to keep people healthy. And while my job is integral to keeping the sick and injured alive, I can’t say I’ve ever considered pharmacists as “lifesavers.” That is, until September 10, 2008.

That day, after a meeting between the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and representatives of the Ohio Pharmacists Association, the group broke to prepare for its Annual Licensure Ceremony, which welcomes Ohio's newest pharmacists to the profession with the formal presentation of their wall licenses. During that break – in a room full of hundreds of people – I lost consciousness and collapsed on the floor.
I went into cardiac arrest, and my life was officially on the clock and out of my hands.

While I have no recollection of what happened at that point, I was later told that several ceremony attendees immediately sprung into action. I was incredibly fortunate that I was surrounded by so many people trained in CPR, because unfortunately, the facility where the event was held had no defibrillator on-site.

Knowing that the lack of an automated external defibrillator (AED) is a death sentence for most, Christine Clarke – a registered nurse who was a guest at the meeting – and my team of lifesavers tirelessly performed the necessary procedures to keep me alive until the emergency squad arrived.

I was lucky enough that EMS arrived within six minutes to apply the AED that delivered the crucial shock that brought me out of arrest. I was then transported to St. Ann’s Hospital in Westerville, Ohio, where they cooled my body with ice and continued treatment.

After two hours of being worked on by doctors, I was transferred to Mount Carmel East Hospital to be operated on by their team of heart doctors and nurses. Throughout my first couple days of treatment, my body was continuously chilled by ice, and then on Saturday, September 13, I regained consciousness. 

On September 17, an angiogram was performed, and my doctors and I agreed that I needed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which I had installed the next day.

On September 21, I was transported to The Lodge, a rehabilitation center in Mason, Ohio. After 10 days, I was admitted to Anderson Mercy Hospital in Cincinnati because of concerns about dehydration and hypotension. After an overnight stay, I was released to recuperate at home. I began cardiac rehab on November 7, 2008, and was able to attend State Board meetings again.

I have since made a full recovery. My cardiologist told me that in situations like mine, chances of survival were about 7 percent. I couldn’t be happier to be defying the odds.

There is no doubt in my mind that immediate access to appropriate treatment saved my life. I am eternally grateful to those who took brave and quick action, including several pharmacy faculty members from the University of Toledo, Ohio Northern University, and The Ohio State University. I like to give my alma mater, the University of Cincinnati, grief for being conveniently absent!

I still serve on the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and regularly attend meetings. In May of 2010, I purchased and donated an AED in coordination with Cardiac Science and the Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA), so that OPA can have the AED in its office and at special off-site events. If something like this were to happen to anyone in the future, I want to be sure that the odds are stacked in their favor.

On June 9, 2010, at a special event at the Columbus Capital Club, Jerry officially presented OPA with the new AED. He also presented each of his rescuers with SCAA Heroes awards and pins, giving them a permanent reminder of not only Jerry’s eternal gratitude, but also their integral roles in the cardiac arrest chain of survival.


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