After quadruple bypass surgery several days ago, Lenny Hawes is fortunate to be alive.
Quick action by the staff at Oak Mountain State Park made it possible for Hawes to get to the hospital for his eventual surgery. Hawes, a park employee, was playing golf on his day off when he was stricken.
“Mr. Hawes was playing golf with a nurse friend (Chris Foster) on the 10th hole closest to the pro shop, and Chris Payne (golf course supervisor) and Bill Nefferdorf (golf course maintenance worker) grabbed the AED (automated external defibrillator) and took off on a golf cart when the call came in,” Park Superintendent Kelly Ezell said. “It is nothing short of a miracle that it happened when it did, where it did and that the staff thought to grab the AED when their friend and coworker was down.”
Nefferdorf said when the call came in at the pro shop, they didn’t know who was in distress on the 10th green.
“I grabbed the defibrillator and took off in a golf cart,” Nefferdorf said. “Chris Payne followed. When I got there, Chris Foster was performing CPR on Lenny. He said get the defibrillator and I started following everything he said to do. We got the pads and took the covers off and attached them to Lenny. Then I pressed the button and the machine started scanning. I was performing CPR while Chris was getting the breathing mask on. Then the defibrillator said to get back. It zapped him and he jumped about 10 inches off ground. Lenny came back from that and started breathing. Chris said to keep giving him CPR. I was directing the ambulance down the cart path, so Chris Payne continued the CPR. All three of us were working to bring Lenny back.”
Ezell said the reason an AED was quickly available was because of an initiative by the City of Pelham.
“The Pelham Fire Department put AEDs in many businesses in Pelham last year and thankfully included Oak Mountain State Park in that program,” Ezell said. “Up to that point Oak Mountain had only two units in the park. Pelham furnished an additional four units. Because of their efforts, there was an AED located in the pro shop. Fire Chief Tim Honeycutt and EMS Director Matt Maples made sure that we had the additional units, and they take care of servicing all of our units here at the park. Pelham Fire and Rescue is a great partner to Oak Mountain State Park.”
Maples said he approached the Pelham City Council last year about developing a public access defibrillator (PAD) program, which led to deploying the extra units to Oak Mountain State Park.
“We were able to get the funding through the city council to purchase about 50 AEDs to be distributed throughout the city,” Maples said. “We were able to place additional units at Oak Mountain State Park. We were very fortunate. Even though Oak Mountain had an older unit, we were able to get them new ones about two months before the event on the golf course occurred.”
The new units gave Oak Mountain the most up-to-date AED technology to use in any cardiac episode at the park.
“This technology makes the AED very easy for the lay person to use in a public setting,” Maples said. “That is our goal, so that anybody without any medical training can utilize one of these devices to save someone’s life. And we want them to be as publicly accessible as possible.”
In layman’s terms, Maples said the electrical pulse from an AED terminates the lethal cardiac rhythm, allowing the heart to resume a normal heartbeat.
“The incident at Oak Mountain was the second time one of the new AEDs has been used in the past two months,” he said. “It absolutely saves lives. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) alone isn’t nearly as effective as when you incorporate an AED into the process of saving someone’s life. The more we can get these AEDs out there in the public, the more success we’ll have in resuscitating people. Time is critical. Luckily Mr. Hawes was playing with people who knew to call the pro shop.”
Ezell said that Maples sent a note to Oak Mountain saying the AED company, Stryker HeartSine, would donate an AED to the business/charity of Mr. Hawes’ choice because his life had been saved by the company’s equipment. The donation program is called Forward Hearts.
“I thought that was pretty cool,” she said.
Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, thinks divine intervention played a role in the fact that Mr. Hawes was playing golf with a nurse that day and that park employees were able to respond so quickly with the life-saving AED.
“I am so glad that Mr. Hawes was able to go home to his family due to the quick actions of Bill Nefferdorf and Chris Payne,” he said. “It takes a special kind of initiative and care for your fellow man to grab an AED on a second’s notice, jump in a golf cart, hurry through the course and shock a man back to life. We appreciate the City of Pelham for providing the AED. We have these in our parks and train employees on how to use them for just this type of event. This is just another example of the dedication and passion the employees of the Alabama State Parks show on a daily basis.”
Commissioner Blankenship said he is thankful that Governor Kay Ivey has provided the public with access to the outdoors by keeping as many facilities open as possible during the restrictions required to minimize exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
“Our park campgrounds, trails and golf courses have stayed open during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Commissioner Blankenship said, “and our employees are doing a great job providing safe access for the public – one of the few states to keeps parks open the entire time.”
Governor Ivey issued a new “Safer-at-Home” directive on April 28 that will go into effect when the previous restrictions expire on April 30. The new directive that goes into effect at 5 p.m. on April 30, 2020, states that all individuals – especially vulnerable persons – are encouraged to exercise personal responsibility in slowing the spread of COVID-19 with the following steps:
- Minimizing travel outside the home, especially if sick;
- Wearing face coverings around people from other households when it is necessary to leave the home;
- Washing hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces;
- Refraining from touching one’s face;
- Sneezing or coughing into a tissue, or the inside of one’s elbow; and
- Disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.
“Vulnerable persons” includes individuals 65 years and older or individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.
Non-work-related gatherings remain limited to fewer than 10 individuals, and the 6-foot social distancing rules must be followed.
For those who have missed having their toes in the sand, Governor Ivey’s latest directive allows Alabama’s beautiful beaches to be open to gatherings of fewer than 10 persons, and anyone using the beaches must maintain a consistent 6-foot distance between himself or herself and all persons from a different household. Beach is defined as the sandy shoreline area abutting the Gulf of Mexico, whether privately or publicly owned, including beach access points.
David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.