MAYVILLE - Bob Dillemuth is lucky to be alive.
The 65-year-old Erie, Pa. resident, who in 2013 suffered a massive heart attack while jogging in Hartfield, is indeed a living testament to the training, equipment and sheer fortune involved in life and death situations.
With lingering incredulity, he recalls how one of his rescuers - a man jogging down the street - was an employee of Univera Healthcare, a Buffalo-based health insurer that incidentally had been supplying the Chautauqua County Sheriff's Office with semi-automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, since 2009.
Pictured, from left, are Joseph Gerace, Chautauqua County sheriff; Art Wingerter, Univera Healthcare president; and Bob Dillemuth.
P-J photo by A.J. Rao
"Nick Kompare, who works for Univera in their Rochester office, was at his in-laws' cottage over in Dewittville," Dillemuth said. "He just happened to come down the street where I went down, saw me lying there and (started administering) CPR."
Sheriff's Deputy Michael Seeley, a certified EMT who wasn't scheduled to work that day, overheard the call for help while he was at the Sheriff's Office. He immediately responded to the scene with an AED.
"It would have taken Hartfield (Volunteer Fire Department) about 15 minutes to get to me," Dillemuth said. "If it hadn't been for Nick running down that street and Deputy Seeley getting to the site with his EMT knowledge, I would be gone."
Indeed, Dillemuth's story, though ending favorably, compelled the Sheriff's Office and Univera Healthcare to not simply rely on chance for future crises.
Earlier this month, the Sheriff's Office added three new AEDs to place in service, thanks to an underwriting grant from Univera Healthcare.
Including this latest donation, Univera has underwritten the cost of 20 AEDs for the Sheriff's Office over the past five years. The latter is now fully equipped with AEDs for its patrol cars, watercraft and jail.
"Univera has been a wonderful partner in our agency's AED deployment program," said Joseph Gerace, Chautauqua County sheriff. "Without the generous donations made by this company, we could not have AEDs in all of our patrol cars. Their donation has helped our agency better serve the citizens of Chautauqua County."
Art Wingerter, Univera Healthcare president, equally thanked Gerace for his dedication and dogged pursuit to get his deputies equipped.
"In rural parts of our service area, including many parts of Chautauqua County, a sheriff's deputy is often the first responder to a medical emergency," Wingerter said. "In a cardiac emergency, it's important to have an AED within reach since the likelihood of resuscitation decreases by about 10 percent with every minute that passes."
The AED units are state-of-the-art Philips HeartStart Defibrillators that retail for about $2,500 each. Each unit is about the size of a child's lunchbox, and is used in cases of life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias where the heart is electrically active, but in a dysfunctional pattern that doesn't allow it to pump and circulate blood.
The device is semi-automated and issues voice commands that instruct the user on how and where to connect sensor pads to the patient. If the device determines a shock is warranted, it will provide instruction to the user on how to deliver the electrical charge. If the sensors don't detect a shockable rhythm, the device will not allow a shock to be administered.
"We don't just hand (AEDs) out," said Peter Kates, vice president communications with Univera Healthcare. "We provide the funding to underwrite the purchase. We hook (customers) up with a vendor who does the needs assessment. The shipment is then directed to the (customer) and we get the bill. It's great to give them to law enforcement because they have a process for monitoring and maintaining (the AEDs). And, of course, there's a need."