Alcoa worker gets life-saving jolt to heart on Valentine's Day

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Feb. 17, 2012 at 5:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 16, 2012 at 8:17 p.m.

Mike Machacek was saved with an Automated External Defibrillator that was hand at Alcoa when he had a heart attack. Citizens Medical Center has donated defibrillators to various public places.

Mike Machacek was saved with an Automated External Defibrillator that was hand at Alcoa when he had a heart attack. Citizens Medical Center has donated defibrillators to various public places.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

Mike Machacek lounges in his pajamas, arms folded on his lap; he's quite comfortable and thankful -- thankful to be alive, that is.

The 50-year-old Yoakum man suffered a heart attack at Alcoa's Point Comfort Plant on Valentine's Day and is the latest example of how an Automated External Defibrillator can save lives.

The defibrillators have been around for quite some time, but Citizens Medical Center has pushed to have the user-friendly heart shocker at most public places -- the hospital has even donated defibrillators to some area schools districts, said Suzanne Stone, the hospital's Chest Pain Center coordinator.

"It's making a huge difference," Stone said.

A Valentine's Day Shock

The Valentine's workday for Machacek, a general mechanic at Alcoa, was no different from any day in the past 15 years of his career.

He was on a break and began to feel heart burn. One of his good friends, Brian Baros, was with him to make sure he was OK.

Machacek was not too worried, but something did not feel right. Then his head fell back and his heart went into lethal heart arrhythmia, or a deadly heart rhythm.

That is when Alcoa's emergency response team hooked him to the defibrillator.

"I do remember them saying, 'clear'," he said. "But they said I was still out."

When someone enters a lethal heart arrhythmia, they have anywhere from five to seven minutes to be shocked into a steady normal rhythm. If not, every second that passes means more possible heart and brain damage, Stone said.

Seventy-one minutes passed from the time the Calhoun County Emergency Medical Services arrived at the plant to when the blockage was cleared by a cardiologist at the Citizens cath lab.

That is well within the 90-minute time frame set by American College of Cardiology to have the blockage cleared, Stone said.

Stone was impressed at Alcoa's emergency response team's speedy action.

"The team's efforts definitely saved a life," said Allen Baxter, Alcoa's health and safety manager. "This is what I call making the ultimate difference."

Defibrillators have been used in ambulances and in hospitals for some time, but it was not until about half a decade ago that the easy-to-use defibrillators started making its way into public places; anywhere from airplanes, to football games - they are everywhere, Stone added.

In Hindsight

On Friday, Machacek was ready to go home, looking as healthy as prior to his heart attack.

"I'm going to have to be really cautious on these holidays," he said laughing.

Looking back, Machacek said he feels really fortunate. Had he been up four stories working, he may have not made it.

Even then, he never thought he could have a heart attack. He's always had a slightly elevated blood pressure, but he never expected what happened on Valentine's Day.

"It kind of really shocked me," he said. "I come from a bullheaded family. We always say, 'It ain't gonna happen to you...' and boom, it did."

The Machaceks did not have any Valentine's Day plans, but Stone said the couple received the best gift ever - a functioning heart.

For now, Machacek is going to take several weeks off work. He's going to be more conscientious about his eating and exercise habits.

If there is anything Machacek has learned, he said, it's something rather simple.

"50 is not that old," he said smiling. "You've got a lot of life left in you."



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