TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - The heroic efforts of an off-duty Vermillion County sheriff's deputy back in late June are being praised publicly. Deputy Chad Hennis was able to restart a 45-year-old man's heart with the automated defibrillator that now travels with Hennis in his squad car.
Hennis is confident that victim Michael Ayala was clinically dead when Hennis and his girlfriend, driving her own vehicle, happened upon the scene during the early evening hours of Sunday, June 23. The two described what they saw: traffic stopped in both directions, Ayala's body draped over the bicycle he'd been riding, stunned drivers seemingly uncertain of how to help.
Both Hennis and his girlfriend, Julie Strahla, a registered nurse the last 20 years, assumed the victim in the middle of the highway had been hit by a car, as any casual observer would. The couple said there was still plenty of daylight for them to make split-second assessments of what had happened as they approached Ayala, on foot, to offer aid.
Hennis and Strahla couldn't help but notice Ayala had not a scratch on him, not as much as a bruise or drop of blood. But adding to the confusion was the fact that Ayala had no pulse either, and was not breathing. Michael Ayala was clinically dead.
Strahla told News 10 she immediately began administering basic CPR to the victim while Deputy Hennis hustled to Strahla's home nearby to retrieve his marked sheriff's car and the AED (automated external defibrillator) he carries in the backseat.
The portable AEDs sheriff's deputies are using in Vermillion County beyond user friendly: designed to be idiot proof, so to speak, to the point where probably a 5-year-old child could operate one.
On Friday, Chad Hennis demonstrated for News 10 the AED he used on Michael Ayala; the device literally "speaks" to the user in a crystal clear, and commanding male voice. Hennis's AED instructed the operator to carefully connect the device to the patient's chest and abdomen; then, it gives a "stand clear" command, and orders the person offering aid to trigger the "shock" button on the device.
"Within about 5 seconds of the shock, he started getting a pulse back and started gasping for air," Deputy Hennis recalled.
Victim and now survivor Michael Ayala remembers hardly one moment of the day he died, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. One thing he will always carry in his memory: gratitude toward the two total strangers who saved his life.
"If God wasn't with them to help me out I wouldn't be here today," Ayala told News 10 on Friday. "If they would've given up on me, didn't hear a heartbeat, I wouldn't be here today!"
Vermillion County Sheriff Bob Spence told News 10 that Deputy Chad Hennis will be formally honored on Monday by Cardiac Science, the company that supplied the department with the roughly 12 AEDs most if not all deputies have within reach.
Spence said the presentation will take place around 10:00 a.m. at sheriff's department headquarters in Hillsdale, IN.
Deputy Hennis will be there; no word on whether his fellow humble hero, Julie Strahla, will be present, though both Hennis and Strahla strike down any suggestion that they did anything beyond what the two are trained to do on the job every day.
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