MUNCY - Nick Socoski can thank the quick action of bystanders, emergency responders and the availability of an Automatic External Defibrillator for being alive today.
Socoski, 54, was working in late December at his kiosk in the Lycoming Mall where he sells personalized Christmas ornaments when he suddenly collapsed to the floor.
"I went into cardiac arrest," he recalled.
Nick Socoski poses by the Automatic External Difibrillator that saved his life while working at his kiosk in the Lycoming Mall.
Almost immediately, people were on the scene to learn what was wrong and to see if they could help Socoski.
Al Marzouqui, who sells framed photos of sports memorabilia nearby, was among the first to reach him.
"In my life I had never seen anyone drop like that," he said. "You have your friend laying down over there, you don't know what to do."
Marzouqui didn't like the what he saw. Socoski, he recalled, was beginning to turn blue.
A scuba driver instructor trained in CPR, he began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Socoski.
Someone else then took over the CPR duties by repeatedly pressing Socoski's chest.
In 2008, the American Heart Association concluded that chest pressing works just as well as the standard mouth-to-mouth CPR for sudden cardiac arrest in adults. It is widely accepted that such CPR is simpler and easier to remember while removing a big barrier for people skittish about the mouth-to-mouth breathing.
By then nurses who happened to be in the mall "stepped in and did their thing," said Socoski.
Marzouqui said one of the
nurses grabbed an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) from a nearby wall and used it to shock Socoski's heart.
AEDs are equipped with sticky pads with sensors known as electrodes that attach to the chest of a person experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. The electrodes send information about the person's heart rhythm to a computer in the AED.
Scott Yonkin, a Susquehanna Health paramedic who responded to the mall that day, explained how the AED works.
"It interprets the (heart) rhythm and decides whether to deliver the shock. And then it tells you whether to resume CPR. Every two minutes it tells you to stop and see if the patient has a pulse. Apparently, they delivered one shock. They found him to still have a pulse. He was placed on high flow oxygen."
In recent years, the mall has made available on site a number of the AEDs.
Marzouqui said he never knew the devices were there.
"I'm glad somebody knew where they were," he added.
By the time Yonkin arrived, Socoski was starting to wake up. He remembered he had a strong, rapid pulse and good blood pressure.
"He was just waking but confused," Yonkin said. "I initiated an intravenous line."
He said Socoski was a bit combative and confused as a result of not having oxygen, and he ended up giving him a sedative through an IV line.
"I was saved by a defibrillator," Socoski said.
Yonkin agreed but made it clear that other factors played a part as well, including the quick recognition by bystanders of Socoski's heart problems and the immediate and continuous use of CPR along with the use of the AED.
Despite being physically active, Socoski said he had at times experienced symptoms prior to his cardiac arrest incident - shortness of breath, chest pains - that may have indicated heart problems.
"My family had a history of heart problems," he added."My dad died of heart disease."
Socoski said it was later discovered he had three blocked arteries, and a few days later he underwent triple bypass surgery.
"Two were 80 percent blocked and another 100 percent," he said.
Since that time, he has made great efforts to take better care of himself.
By his own admission he's on a strict diet and takes daily walks - either inside the mall or somewhere outside.
"I lost 30 pounds," he said.
He also makes frequent use of the services of Susquehanna Health Life Center in the mall, having his blood pressure and other vital signs checked there.
"A lot more people need to take advantage of it," he said.
Marzouqui said his friend's brush with death has made him more conscious of his own diet and physical well-being.
And, he's very much aware of the AED's and the role they play in saving lives.
"I can't walk in the mall without seeing where they are at," he said.