By Jen Bakken
Though she has no memory of it, an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) saved Lisa Koenecke’s life in October 2007.
Now, this Delano resident is doing well, and her friends recently rallied together to bring another AED to the Delano community in her honor.
As a group, these friends try to meet monthly for breakfast at Edie Mae’s, and decided to surprise Koenecke with the AED donation. Instead of just a few friends, a large group showed up for the anniversary celebration.
“A few of us wanted to celebrate the one year anniversary of Lisa’s cardiac arrest survival,” said Cheri Shouts. “Everyone was told to bring a balloon as a gift, but Jeanne Berglund also had the idea about the AED, and did background work to find out how to get an additional one placed in Delano. Knowing this, we also suggested to the group ahead of time that they could donate to the cause.”
When it was announced that Koenecke may not have survived the cardiac arrest if an AED had not been available, her friends and family took out their checkbooks and donated to the cause.
“Truly, we are a group of friends who have learned to appreciate and celebrate those friendships,” she said.
It was while working as executive director of the Delano Area Chamber of Commerce, that Koenecke suffered a cardiac arrest. She was transported by Ridgeview Ambulance to Ridgeview Hospital in Waconia and later to Abbott Northwestern, where she was initially in critical condition. An AED saved her life.
Koenecke retired from the Delano Chamber of Commerce in May, and since then, has been focusing on her husband, Greg, and their three children Kayla, Mitch, and Joel, all who are students at Delano Public Schools.
“I’ve been busy chasing kids,” said Lisa Koenecke. “I’ve also been volunteering at Waconia Hospital in oncology and cardiac rehab. It’s the first place they took me after my cardiac arrest, and I just want to give back.”
Koenecke’s friends and family donated approximately $700 towards the cost of the $1,600 AED. The remainder was donated by Heart Safe Communities.
Heart Safe Communities is an initiative to increase survival from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA is usually caused by an electrical malfunction of the heart called ventricular fibrillation.
Ventricular fibrillation causes a quivering of the heart muscle that makes it unable to pump blood through the body. Once the blood stops circulating, a person loses consciousness and the ability to breathe, and will die without effective treatment.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that placing defibrillators in public places and training citizens to use them, increased speed response times and doubled survival rates from SCA.
Buffalo Hospital Foundation, in partnership with Allina Transportation, has helped to educate more than 2,400 citizens about SCA and how to use an AED, while placing more than 160 defibrillators throughout Wright County.
“Rapid response is key to saving lives,” said Delano resident Kelly Lewis, who is the Heart Safe Communities coordinator at Buffalo Hospital and Allina Medical Transportation, “because every minute that goes by, a person’s survival rate decreases by 10 percent.”
SCA can happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime, and it almost always fatal, according to the Heart Safe Communities web site, www.allina.com/ahs/transport.nsf/page/heart. To prevent deaths from SCA, the organization has helped to place AED’s where people live, work and play.
Koenecke decided to give the AED to the Delano Area Sports Arena.
“I wanted it to be somewhere with a mixture of ages,” she said. “Cardiac is ageless and there’s a lot of people who go to the ice arena.”
After Koenecke’s cardiac arrest, it was found she has Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD), a genetic, progressive heart condition in which the muscle of the right ventricle is replaced by fat and fibrosis, which causes abnormal heart rhythms.
According to www.arvd.com, the condition is estimated to affect one in 5,000 people and can affect both men and women. An implanted defibrillator pacemaker will protect Koenecke from future problems with the disease.
“I have been feeling really good,” she said. “I was so shocked my friends got together to donate the defibrillator. I never expected it. I feel so blessed to be alive. God’s got me here for something, but I don’t plan on racking my brain to figure out what it is, and will just live each day and try to help somebody else.”