The beauty of a portable defibrillator is that it inherently knows what to do in an emergency.
It doesn’t have panicked adrenaline rushing through it. It simply does its job, even if that job is to not deliver a shock to the heart.
That’s what Warren Grafton found out just under two years ago. He and his wife Chantelle were out mountain biking near Valemount on June 15, 2019. Chantelle did an ‘endo’ … biker term for going over the handlebars. She was critically injured with a broken neck.
“After Chantelle’s crash, they started CPR on her and we made it into the ambulance,” Warren says. “On the way down to the hospital, the trauma nurse seemed to think things were going poorly.”
As they were in a crowded ambulance, he got Warren to attach the automatic external defibrillator (AED) to Chantelle.
“We weren’t entirely sure,” he says. “Her pulse was so weak to begin with and she definitely wasn’t breathing.”
The AED is a diagnostic tool and in Chantelle’s case, it told everyone in the ambulance that her heart was working.
“As soon as I heard ‘shock not recommended,’ for me it was a ‘she’s got a heartbeat, this is good,’” says Warren. “And then you know, at least, that you can narrow your area of focus to respiratory.”
AED’s are very user-friendly … just attach the electrodes and push the button. And they save lives.
Chantelle had actually been pushing to get AEDs in workplaces before her accident. And now, with her personal experience and the two-year anniversary of the accident that left her in a wheelchair, the two are even more motivated to get AEDs into workplaces.
“For our ‘endoversary’ this year (it was June 15, 2019 when she had her accident), we thought it would be good to try to do something that will make a difference,” said Chantelle.
They started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $4,000 to buy two AEDs … one for the karate club where they teach, and one to use as a loaner at events. They put the message out and the next day someone dropped one off an AED at the karate club. Their GoFundMe campaign has already raised $1,090.
“It increases your chances of survival compared to CPR,” says Chantelle.
It’s been a long two years since the accident and the addition of COVID-19 into everyone’s life hasn’t helped. Chantelle was barely out of the hospital after her accident when COVID-19 hit, so she went from hospital bed to lockdown.
“It doesn’t feel like two years,” she says. “Sometimes it feels like yesterday … plus when I got back, COVID started. I’m not sure what regular life is like, I’m kind of stuck in the same boat as everyone else.”
And, of course, with COVID-19 there is an added health risk. Her injuries did not leave her immuno-compromised, but the pandemic is still a big concern.
“Anything higher than a T3 injury affects your diaphragm and your ability to breathe,” says Chantelle. “I actually only use half of my diaphragm and I use shoulder muscles, so it’s difficult for me to cough or take a deep breath. I’ve had to be cautious about where I go … Breathing’s a big deal. I’ve had pneumonia and been on a ventilator (for about three months).”
They both have been vaccinated, which gives a little more peace of mind.
“We definitely take the whole situation very seriously,” says Warren. “And so has everyone around us.”
It is pretty amazing that 11 months after a crash that left her paralyzed, she was back to work and is now working on her national coaching certification.
“I’m doing good, I’m currently working right now,” she says. “Enjoying being back out in the community and being able to contribute a bit back. I’m coaching at the karate club two days a week and hanging in there like everyone else.”
“It only happened because of the support we got from the town,” says Warren.
As for the summer they are looking at getting back to the outdoors, which is very challenging given that Chantelle’s chair is 450 pounds and not really designed for rough terrain. They have been working with a chair developer who, hopefully, will have an outdoor chair for them soon.
“We’re looking at fun things right now,” Chantelle says. “We’re dreaming about travelling and we’re looking at purchasing a camper and making it accessible so we can get back out with our friends.”
You can donate on their GoFundMe page here.