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AED credited with saving life of local man

Mark Malekoff is living proof that AEDs and CPR save lives. When the 32 year old Grande Prairie man collapsed after playing in a rec hockey tournament at the Crosslink County Sportsplex in April, his friends saved him using both.

Malekoff says he noticed his chest was pounding and he couldn’t catch his breath while on the ice, but wrote it off as a sinus cold. It wasn’t until he got into the locker room afterwards that he went into cardiac arrest.

“The guys ended up doing CPR, grabbed an AED and ended up shocking me with that. My heart was in a ventricular fibrillation, which is a lethal arrhythmia, and I was shocked again on the way to the hospital.”

After two weeks of tests, Malekoff says the doctors told him his cardiac arrest was caused by Idiopathic Ventricular Fibrillation, which means they couldn’t find a reason for it. The young father of a two-year-old girl and another child on the way says he ignored his symptoms, having played competitive hockey as a member of the Grande Prairie Storm and the Michigan Technological University Huskies.

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He has an S-ICD device implanted and his heart is still healthy, but Malekoff considers himself lucky to be alive. He’s thankful the friends he was with knew how to perform CPR and weren’t afraid to use the AED nearby.

“It’s nothing to be intimidated of; you open it up and it literally tells you exactly what to do; it’s very simple. It won’t shock a heart that doesn’t need a shock so you won’t do any wrong by putting an AED on; if they do need it, it can save their life.”

Malekoff is now working to raise awareness of the importance of having AEDs in public places. He has bought an AED to donate to the new Roy Bickell Public School in Royal Oaks, which will be placed next to a plaque telling his story with the names of the friends and teammates who helped save his life: Kevin Bjornson, Chad Goldie, Rob Short, and Nick Cross.

The donation was made with the help of the Regional EMS Foundation and Project Brock, which was started by the parents of 16 year old Brock Ruether, who collapsed and died playing volleyball in Fairview. While there was an AED at his high school, it wasn’t used. The project’s goal is to get an AED into every school in Alberta.

“I think the more education that people have on the topic and understanding AEDs and their importance,” says Malekoff, “those deaths can be preventable by having the right technology and the right people educated in place.”

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, there are 40,000 cardiac arrests in Canada a year. For every minute a patient waits for defibrillation, their survival rate drops 7 to 10 per cent.

Malekoff hopes by sharing his story, more people will understand the importance of both CPR and AEDs, and that a sudden cardiac arrest could happen to anyone. He also hopes to see more children getting training in First Aid and CPR in school, with a chance to learn about AEDs early on.

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