What’s the difference between life and death? For Sunnyside Toyota customer Frank George, it was an AED unit and the quick response of (left to right) Tina Merrell, Dave Henson, Kendyl Frye and Bob Steele.
To put it simply, the suburban Cleveland store’s foresight—in all likelihood—saved a life.
“I honestly believe that, if not for the AED, he wouldn’t have made it,” says Customer Relations Manager Frye of longtime customer Frank George.
On a routine weekday in August, George was seated in the dealership’s service lounge having brought in his 2012 Corolla for its routine 45,000-mile service. What happened next was anything but routine.
George’s head fell back. He started convulsing. He lost consciousness. He had no pulse. He was in the throes of a sudden cardiac arrest.
“I happened to be in the area, taking care of another customer,” says Frye. “I told Dave Henson, one of our service advisors, to get the AED while our receptionist, Tina Merrell, called 911. Bob Steele, another service advisor, and two of our customers helped me get him down on the floor. It turned out that one was a police officer and the other was a nursing student. We just formed a team and took our positions. There was this silent understanding.”
When the AED arrived, Frye attached the pads and gave George’s heart a shock and the team started to administer CPR. With the nursing student serving as a metronome, the police officer began chest compressions while Frye attempted to restart George’s breathing. The 65-year-old managed one dramatic inhalation. Then the paramedics arrived and took over. From start to finish, only seven minutes elapsed.
“It just flowed,” says Frye. “In the moment, we were so calm. But it didn’t feel that way when it was done. I had to go the Business Development Center in a building next door to collect myself. I was on such an adrenaline rush. On my way back to my office, I sent a text to the owner (Kirt Frye): ‘The AED paid for itself. We saved a life today!’”
Six days later, in the hospital, George regained full consciousness. Rather miraculously, he had no loss of brain activity. His wife, Ellie, told Frye that only about 10 percent of the people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest survive. When he’s up to it, George plans to revisit the dealership to personally thank the people who saved his life.
“We were lucky,” says Frye. “The man upstairs was watching over us.”
Fortunate, yes. But Sunnyside Toyota was also prepared. In addition to the AEDs placed strategically throughout the facility, the dealership has a dozen employees who are certified to use the devices and administer CPR. Frye hopes their experience will inspire every Toyota dealership to follow suit.
“You do need a commitment from management,” she says. “We took on the challenge and, thankfully, it paid off. A lot of our customers are older. They bring in their cars and wait in the lounge. You never know when something like this will happen.”