Family credits specialized vest with saving man's life
Defibrillators are a tool that can quickly shock a patient's heart back to beating during cardiac arrest. One type of defibrillator, the Life Vest, recently helped save the life of a Waterloo man.
WATERLOO (KWWL) -
A quarter of all deaths in the US are attributed to heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Heart conditions are only becoming more common with the rise in obesity. But medical advances are constantly helping save lives.
Defibrillators are becoming a more common way to help save patients suffering cardiac arrest.
Defibrillators, called AEDs, have been showing up in a lot of schools and other public places. It's a tool that can be quickly used to shock the heart back to work.
But another type of defibrillator, specifically designed for people who suffer from heart disease, is becoming popular. One eastern Iowa man credits it with saving his life.
At just 52, David Aliffi suffers a serious heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy.
"I smoked like a factory, and that's what led to all this," Aliffi said.
Last month, Aliffi was with his sister in the lobby of cardiologist Dr. Joud Dib's office when he went into sudden cardiac arrest.
"There was no pain, no nothing. I just -- my heart quit. I literally blacked out," said Aliffi.
"When I came in the door, he was flat on the floor," his sister Carole Barrows said. "I just stood there dumfounded."
Dr. Dib rushed out to check on him, but there was no pulse.
Knowing his history of heart attacks, Barrows thought for sure her brother was dead.
"Eyes open and a dead stare," Barrows said. "I thought 'Oh God. This is ... this is it.'"
But just two weeks earlier, Dr. Dib had prescribed a device for Aliffi called a Life Vest.
The Life Vest is incredibly small and lightweight. It can be used in patients with all kinds of heart problems. It's currently worn by about 100,000 people and has saved some 1,000 lives.
The Vest knows when the heart needs help and sends out an alert, then shocks the patient's heart.
When Aliffi collapsed, Dr. Dib was a bit nervous. The 40 seconds before the vest kicked on seemed like an eternity, but it did the job.
"You have some doubt. You're like, 'C'mon man! The guy is dead. Just shock him!' And then it goes off," Dr. Dib said. "After that, everybody was happy because he was dead and the guy came back. It's a miracle."
"When I came to I was asking people, 'What the hell just happened?'" said Aliffi.
Aliffi now feels lucky to be alive. He and his family are amazed at how this medical technology shocked him back to life.
"If it hadn't been for that, it truly would've been a tragedy," Barrows said.
Patients are able to wear the Life Vest while being considered for a permanent implanted defibrillator. In the past, those patients would have no help if they experienced cardiac arrest during the three-month monitoring period before surgery.
After his episode with the Life Vest, Aliffi did undergo surgery at Mayo Clinic to get a defibrillator implanted in his heart -- and he said he's now doing well.
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