Ben’s Heart-Stopping Story
This Valentine’s Day, Top of the World Granite Owner Meg Welch, shares the heart-stopping story of her son going into cardiac arrest and touches on the importance of CPR training.
0:00:06.5 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home. Welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union, and we have it all for you from finance to fitness. And today is a very special day. It’s Valentine’s Day. So we wish all of you the most wonderful, loving day that you can possibly have. Today, we have a really special story, and it’s very personal to me, but it’s also one that can change lives, save lives. Meg Welch is joining me today. And to be honest, Meg is my sister-in-law, so this story is a very personal one. But again, as we said, it’s really one that will also change lives drastically and save them as well. Meg, thank you so much for being with us.
0:00:44.8 Meg Welch: Thank you for having me here today.
0:00:46.6 LJJ: Now, Meg, you’re also a business partner. I know you and Mike own Top of the World Granite company, [a] great member here at Consumers Credit Union. So, thank you so much for being our member. We’re going to talk a little bit today about something that happened personally to you and your family. And we’re talking about it in heart month, because as you know, we are a partner with the American Heart Association, and your story is one I think that people need to really hear and share with others so that we can make huge differences in the lives of people that are right next to us when we don’t expect this. Meg, tell us a little bit about what happened.
0:01:22.0 MW: It was April 26, 2019. So coming up on two years ago, my son, Ben had recently turned 21, and he had gone and played basketball with some friends over at Grand Valley. They played for about two or three hours. And he was a basketball player in high school, but he’s not real physically active.
0:01:45.0 LJJ: Well, he is a race car driver.
0:01:46.5 MW: He is a race car driver but…
0:01:48.2 LJJ: Let’s give him credit.
0:01:49.7 MW: Race car drivers are athletes, and so he had played basketball, and they came home. He owns his own house, and so he was with a couple of his friends and his girlfriend. They ordered pizza, and they were just sitting down to eat when he realized that he forgot his cell phone at Grand Valley. So, he said, “You guys go ahead and start eating. I’m going to drive back to Grand Valley get my phone real quick.” So, he did that and he came back home and within a couple of minutes of coming home, he all of a sudden said he wasn’t feeling very well. And so, he was in his kitchen area and he just kind of said out loud, “I don’t feel very well.” And all of a sudden, they heard a thump. And his girlfriend came into the kitchen and found him lying on the ground. She kind of assessed the situation and noticed that he was not having a seizure, and so realized that he did not have a heartbeat. So, she immediately started CPR, told his friends to call 9-1-1. She did CPR for 10-15 minutes, they’re saying…
0:02:53.8 LJJ: Waiting for the ambulance.
0:02:55.6 MW: Waiting for the EMTs to come, and she did get tired. She asked one of the friends to take over. She said, “I’ll tell you what to do if you could just take over a few minutes to let me rest,” so the friend did, and then she went right back at it. The paramedics showed up. They took over CPR. They shocked him four times and did get him to come back. But during this time… So she finishes doing the CPR, and when the paramedics take over, she actually called me.
0:03:30.0 LJJ: So, what time at night is this? I mean, it wasn’t like they were out partying or anything. He literally had just come back and had had a fun day with friends.
0:03:40.3 MW: So, it was a Friday night and it was about 11:50 that I received the phone call.
0:03:46.2 LJJ: So close to midnight.
0:03:47.4 MW: Close to midnight. I had just gone to bed; so I was in bed. I always sleep with my phone by my bed side but on vibrate. So, all of a sudden faintly I can hear it, my phone vibrating. And so I look and it says Emily, which is his girlfriend. So, by the time I got to it, she had hung up. And so, then I walked out of the bedroom and I can hear my husband’s phone ringing. And so in the meantime, I’m calling Emily back ’cause I’m thinking, “Okay, something’s… ”
0:04:18.2 LJJ: Not right.
0:04:19.0 MW: “Not right, if my phones are all ringing,” so I call her back and she says, as calmly as can be, “We have a little bit of an emergency here at Ben’s house.” And I said, “Okay,” and all I can think of is, “He’s 21; owns his own house. We’ve had a party. Something has happened,” and I said, “Okay, what’s the emergency?” And she says, “Well, he’s not breathing right now.” And then I went into panic mode. And that’s like, “Okay, and so what do I do?” So I said, “Okay,” I said, “We’re on our way.” We’re driving to Ben’s house; we live in Spring Lake. We’re going to head towards Ben’s house. “Please call me and let me know that you’re on your way to the hospital and tell me where I’m meeting you at.” So I immediately get my husband up. We’re in the car within minutes. We stop and pick up our daughter who lives in Fruitport, and we start heading that way. And all we kept saying is, “Please call, please call, please call.” Lots of prayers. The police end up calling us asking if he’s got any health issues, any medications, but won’t tell us anything, so that they don’t really know. They’re still working on him.
0:05:31.5 LJJ: And you’re driving in a car. You know there are EMTs working on your son, and you do not know that he’s even alive.
0:05:38.9 MW: We have no clue. I mean, there were a lot of ‘Our Fathers’ being said and just… Yeah, no clue. And so, we’re saying… My daughter and I are like, “Please Emily, just call us. Just call us.” So just as we were getting to the Coopersville exit Emily called us and said, “They have a heartbeat, he’s in the ambulance.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “So where are you going? We’re going to continue on the highway,” She was like, “We’re going to Spectrum Butterworth.” I said, “Alright, we’ll meet you there. Well, we’re going to the emergency room.” So, big sigh of relief, but still in the back of your mind is like, “Okay, so he’s alive. But what’s his condition?” So, I text Emily and I’m like, “Are you in the ambulance with him? What’s going on?” She texts me back and she said, “I am. I’m in the front. I can see through the back window; he’s sitting up and he’s talking to the paramedic.” And I said…
0:06:41.8 LJJ: What a miracle.
0:06:43.2 MW: Yeah, I’m like, she said, “Yeah, he’s talking to him. I can see them talking, having a conversation.” I said, “Great, we’re almost there.” So, we get to the emergency room. They walk us back there, we walk into the emergency room and Ben looks at us. The doctors go, “Do you know these people?” And he says, “Yes. Those are my parents and my sister. Why are they here?” Because at this point, Ben has no memory. He can’t figure out why he is where he is. His jeans are all ripped. He doesn’t have a shirt on. He’s all confused, like, “Why am I here? Why are all you people around me and why are my parents now here,” and he’s slurring his words, and he keeps saying to Emily, “Emily, am I drunk? Were we drinking?”
0:07:33.7 LJJ: He just doesn’t remember.
0:07:35.1 MW: He doesn’t. And so, the doctors pull us aside and said, “He’s slurring his words, and he’s repeating himself constantly because he was shocked, and so he’s going to have a little bit of memory loss. We promise you it will come back. It may not seem like it for a couple of days, and it’s going to be scary, but he’s going to ask you over and over and over again the same things.” And he did. We sat there for an hour and just constantly, “Why are we here?” And then, “I have a race tomorrow. We need to get out of here.”
0:08:06.9 MW: He got admitted to the hospital, obviously, ’cause they wanted to figure out what had happened. We had lots of cardiologist visits. They ran lots of tests. He was in The Heart Ward, which average age, probably 80. So here’s this 21-year-old boy sharing a room with a 85-year-old man. The nurses really enjoyed coming in and working when… in Ben’s room opposed to the other rooms. They do their laps around the unit, and it would be Ben and then there’ll be all these 85-year-olds. They seem to all be men. So we had lots of visits from the cardiologists. They said, “We’re going to run a bunch of tests to find out why.” They said, “You did not have a heart attack. You went into cardiac arrest.” They said there’s a difference. “Your heart just stopped.”
0:08:55.9 LJJ: Stopped. You read the stories of the athletes that, especially it seems like basketball all of a sudden boom, they fall to the ground, and is that… Many times, you find out they had a heart ailment, but this is like, “No, Ben there was nothing wrong with his heart.”
0:09:13.7 MW: Right. Actually, when he was in high school, because of West Leonard and then they did this whole program… He went to Mercy Hospital in Muskegon, and he had the whole test done, and they found nothing, and after he had all the tests done here, they found nothing. They found absolutely nothing wrong with his heart, and so because they couldn’t find anything wrong with him, they told him, that they were going to have to put a defibrillator in him.
0:09:39.3 LJJ: Just in case.
0:09:41.0 MW: Just in case it ever happened again, they said, “If we could have found something wrong with you, then we could fix it.”
0:09:45.6 LJJ: Fix it.
0:09:47.5 MW: He says, “But because we can’t find anything, the safest bet is to put a defibrillator in,” which to a 21-year-old is like…
0:09:55.7 LJJ: Sure. Really?
0:09:57.3 MW: Yeah. And so, his questions are, “So what can I no longer do?” And they said, “You can do anything.”
0:10:03.4 LJJ: And you know when you talk about learning, Meg, there is no question that CPR saved Ben’s life.
0:10:11.6 MW: 100%. For a couple of days Ben didn’t really remember what happened to him. And so, he would kind of crack jokes like, “I’m really sore in my chest area.” And Emily would go, “Really, ’cause I’m really sore in my arms.” And one day the doctor, he came in and he sat down to Ben and he had a heart-to-heart with him, and the doctor pointed over to Emily and said, “Who is this young lady in your life?” And he said, “This is my girlfriend.” And he said, “Well, you owe your life to her.” And he said, “Because if Emily wasn’t there, you wouldn’t be here. She kept your pumping long enough for them to be able to revive you.” To this day, he has a defibrillator. He’s never been shocked. He’s never had another episode, knock on wood, and he feels perfectly healthy. He did all kinds of more tests afterwards after he was released from the hospital, we did genetic testing, they found nothing, and so… They believe it had something to do with him exercising and being dehydrated. He was severely dehydrated when he came in to the hospital, and so they say dehydration can cause cardiac arrest, and so it’s very, very important when exercising to keep hydrated, and that’s the only thing that they’ve been able to pinpoint at this point.
0:11:43.2 LJJ: Well, since this time, he is just a delightful young man, giving so much back to the community, and Meg, one of the things that you have done and taken it upon your own team at Top of the World Granite, is to really get the story out about learning CPR. And so, for that, we thank you. Until you really go through something where you really say, “My son would not be here… ” It’s just an amazing story.
0:12:13.7 MW: It is. And so, with Berlin Raceway and Top of the World Granite, we put together a CPR class. We brought in Tim O’Connor, he’s an EMT who has his own CPR business. Heartbeat is the name of his business, and we connected with him. And he donated his time. We just had to pay for the Heart Association fees to get the CPR. And so he came to Berlin. Berlin donated a building for us to use. We put it out there that Top of the World Granite would pay the fee if anybody would come and get CPR training, so it ended up being a lot of… Some race car drivers, their families, a few fans who came out… Some of our employees from Top of the World Granite, some family. We ended up, CPR training, I believe, 28 people on this Saturday. And it was great.
0:13:10.0 LJJ: Well, Meg, there are so many organizations that can help people learn more. We really thank you today for telling your personal story, it is one that is dear to my heart. My little nephew Ben, much taller than me now, is alive today. And we cannot thank you enough for taking time to share his story.
0:13:28.7 MW: Thank you.
0:13:29.6 LJJ: If you have any information about or would need information regarding CPR training, the American Heart Association is a partner of ours, and it is heart month, so please do me a favor, share this story and also share the need to learn CPR and all of the tools that are available for us to educate ourselves about heart health. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson, Consumers Credit Union. Money, I’m Home from finance to fitness. Thanks Jake Esselink for your production skills. Everybody have a great week.