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Shock to the system: Defibrillation vest helped local man cheat death

By Moses Leos III

Kyle-based insurance salesman David Klaus remembers the walk he took on Dec. 13 with his wife, Stacy, near their home that forever changed his life.

While walking their two Westminister Yorkshire Terriers near their home in Austin, Klaus went into sudden cardiac arrest.

“I was walking and then I remember passing out,” Klaus said.

But with the assistance of an external defibrillation device given weeks earlier, Klaus was able to survive the experience. 

“Honestly, I shouldn’t be here right now,” Klaus said. “But with this (device), I am.”

Klaus, whose family has a history of heart disease, said his troubles began roughly 10 years ago. At the time, he had surgery to place stents in clogged arteries.

But it was in November 2015 when Klaus, who works along Goforth Road near Lehman High, went into cardiac arrest in his office. His business neighbor, whom the two call their “angel,” conducted CPR on Klaus. His actions, along with a quick ride to Seton Medical Center Hays, saved Klaus’ life for the first time.

Once at Seton Hays, Klaus met Dr. Vamsi Krishna, interventional cardiologist, who assessed him at the hospital.

Krishna suggested Klaus wear a life vest that acts as an external defibrillator. That vest, called the Zoll Life Vest, monitors a patient’s heart rate and vital signs on a 24-hour basis.

It then sends the information to a central location, which then notifies doctors via email when an abnormal reading is found.

But Klaus was hesitant when he first took the vest home, saying he was “cussing” at the device. He ultimately supported the doctor’s decision “100 percent.”

“Honestly, I didn’t think twice about it,” Klaus said. “(The doctor) wanted me to wear it. I got home … but (my wife) told me I had to wear it.” 

Klaus and his wife both recognized the importance of the device when he went into sudden cardiac arrest on Dec. 13. The device allowed Klaus to be transported to Seton Hays.

The device saved Klaus while in the hospital on Dec. 14. Stacy said doctors were about to walk into the room to talk to her husband when he passed out.

Krishna said Klaus’ heart went into ventricular tachycardia, or a rapid heart beat, that was recorded at 220 beats per minute. At that rate, blood cannot flow adequately to the brain, which causes a patient to pass out.

But before nurses were able to make their way into the room, the Life Vest emitted its shock of 150 Jules, to shock his heart back into rhythm.

“What it does when it goes off, it says to stand back, it’s going to shock,” Klaus said. “But I don’t feel anything or know anything. I just wake up.”

Klaus credits the device for allowing doctors to adequately diagnose his heart issue. On Dec. 17, cardiologists conducted bypass surgery on Klaus to alleviate blocked arteries.

Adjusting to life with the device has taken some time and patience, Klaus said. He must wear the device 24-hours a day, except when he showers or bathes.

“There have been some adjustements. I’ve learned to sleep with it on, and deal with it,” Klaus said. “It’s been called names when I first got it, but it’s my friend now.”

For Krishna, Klaus’ case forwards his cause to raise awareness of heart disease and sudden cardiac arrest.

According to Krishna, sudden cardiac arrest is the number one cause of death in America. It kills 395,000 per year, which is more lives than breast cancer, car accidents, homicides and colon cancer claims put together.

While there are multiple causes, Krishna said warning signs are difficult to identify. They are often limited to a loss of consciousness.

“Despite our medical advances, it’s still the leading cause of death,” he said.

But for Klaus, who now is working to live a normal life, he looks forward to the day he doesn’t have to rely on the vest to save his life.

“This hasn’t slowed us down from anything … you have to adjust to it,” he said. “I will say this, I’ll be glad when I don’t have to wear it anymore.”

CORRECTION: In our print edition, we reported the defibrilator device worn by David Klaus as the Zoll Live Vest. The device is called the Zoll Life Vest. We apologize for the error. 

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