The kids came home at about 11:30 p.m. and everyone soon went to bed.
At night in their secluded spot on the river off Pine Hill Road it’s so quiet “you can hear a pin drop,” David Simcoe says. So when a jet ski roared to life nearby on the shore it woke him up, a little disgruntled, since it was 12:15 a.m.
“Diane, are you awake?” he asked, not knowing if she had come to bed or was still up. He didn’t get a response so he turned and reached out for her on her side of the bed.
“When I put my hand on her I knew something was wrong,” he said. “I looked and she was blue, she was unresponsive.”
Mr. Simcoe shouted her name, waking Diane’s daughter Sarah, who ran into the bedroom. After calling 911 they moved Ms. Flynn to the floor and he began to administer CPR. Her son Cody woke and Mr. Simcoe instructed him to get the red backpack from the trunk of his police cruiser parked outside.
Mr. Simcoe is one of a few officers equipped with a portable AED, automated external defibrillator, in his cruiser. Once Cody rushed back with the backpack, Mr. Simcoe took out the AED, attached the pads to Ms. Flynn’s chest and let the machine assess her condition.
Informed by the AED that she needed a shock, Mr. Simcoe stepped back and pressed the button, administering the defibrillation. Then, as the AED advised, he gave her CPR for a few moments.
But her heart was still in ventricular tachycardia — fluttering much too fast, and if it stops she would have a heart attack. The machine advised a second shock, which he administered, and this time her heart went into a steady rhythm.
Six minutes after he called 911, police officers arrived. Four minutes after them emergency medical technicians arrived in an ambulance, having to take a long and winding route to get there.
Ms. Flynn was taken to Charlton Memorial Hospital where doctors delivered over 20 more shocks to keep her alive. After 15 hours, the doctors felt that her pulse was steady enough for surgery. She was transported by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital.
The first miracle was the jet ski that woke Mr. Simcoe and spurred him into action. “That’s the miracle there. Why I woke up at the exact time she went into tachycardia,” he said, letting his words trail off.
The second miracle is that he had an AED and remained calm and collected to save her life.
“The doctors said that the reason she survived is from immediate defibrillation,” Mr. Simcoe said.
An officer for 25 years, Mr. Simcoe has hooked up an AED to an ill-stricken person a few times but never been advised by the machine to use it. The AED is just one piece of equipment amongst others in his cruiser that he hopes he never has to use.
But not all Westport officers have one of these life-saving machines. Cody and Sarah asked him about that after their mother was in recovery. When they heard that the police department can’t equip all officers with these costly machines they set out to change that. They raised $6,000 as a donation for the Westport Police Department to buy five AEDs.
Cody and Sarah presented the check to the police department at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Aug. 20. In return, Lt. John Bell presented them and Mr. Simcoe with a police department commendation for saving a life.
Before she went into cardiac arrest, Ms. Flynn was seemingly in perfect health. At 54 years old she loves to ski, waterski, kayak, swim, and bike.
A pacemaker and automatic defibrillator have been implanted in her heart. Though she’s felt tired and been limited physically during her recovery she considers herself “a very lucky girl.”
Doctors told her that stress brought on the tachycardia. Since her work as a property manager and owner of her business had contributed greatly to her stress, she’s shifted a lot of her duties to a property management company.
Over the last two months she’s focused on her family and enjoying life — while taking it easy. That means a lot of lunches, instead of kayaking down the river. And the family gave Cody a wonderful sendoff to college.
Ms. Flynn doesn’t remember any of what happened to her that night or the following four days. It amazes her that that David and her children saved her life. She starts to say how proud she is of them, but then her voice breaks and tears well up; she asks if she can come back to that.
For a few minutes she talked about how David and her children never left her side during her weeklong stay at the hospital. While she recovered, they took turns talking to her and had their friends pray for her. Mr. Simcoe’s fellow officers visited often and had also helped during the emergency by driving her children to the hospital.
Soon, she collected herself enough to return to what she had been saying.
“I’m very appreciative that Dave was here to help, the jet ski on the river. There were just so many miracles that happened,” she said. “I call all three of them my guardian angels.”
Help equip the community
The more AEDs available in the community the better, says Mr. Simcoe. The device is very user-friendly; step-by-step it walks the user through what to do to help the patient. Mr. Simcoe hopes this story encourages business owners to buy an AED for their business. Equipping police officers with an AED spreads these life-saving devices throughout the community, as they take them home with their cruisers and to work details. Anyone who would like to donate toward an AED for the police department can send a check with “defibrillator” written in the memo to the Westport Police Department Gift Account, Westport Police Department, 818 Main Road, Westport, MA 02790.