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Officer, AED credited for helping to save man's life

By Kimberly Davidow, Reporter
Published On: May 22 2012 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: May 23 2012 05:47:26 PM CDT

A quick-thinking police officer in Bern Township is being hailed as a hero.

BERN TWP., Pa. -

A Lancaster County man is alive today thanks to a life-saving device.

James Coxey works at Kohl Building Products in Bern Twp., Berks Co. Earlier this month, it was a typical day on the job, until the unimaginable happened while he was in the men's room.

"I passed out, went down and woke up in the Reading Hospital, and that's the first I knew that anything awry had taken place," said Coxey, 61.

Without any prior illness, Coxey's heart was failing. He was not having a heart attack. Instead, Dr. Michael Koslow, chief of cardiology at The Reading Hospital and Medical Center, said he was experiencing ventricular fibrillation, which means his heart was not beating properly and cutting off oxygen to his brain.

"For every minute that goes by, their chances of surviving decreases by 10%, so seconds matter," said Koslow.

Coxey's employees found him passed out in the bathroom and called 911. Before paramedics arrived, Bern Township police Ofc. Vincent Mazza got to Coxey first.

"Police officers are often the first responders to an instant of sudden cardiac death," said Koslow.

Thanks to HeartSAFE Berks County, Mazza had an automated external defibrillator on hand.

"Once you turn it on, it walks you through a process, how to connect it and then you hook it up to the person," said Mazza, "If it's going to shock the person, it tells you to stand clear."

Doctors said the defibrillator saved Coxey's life.

"By the time the ambulance arrived on scene, he was actually talking and showing signs of movement," said Mazza.

On Wednesday, Coxey was able to thank Mazza for saving his life.

"I'm so grateful," said Coxey.

HeartSAFE Berks County has placed about 250 AEDs in police cars across the county.

"Having benefited from it, so obviously, it's such a wonderful idea," said Coxey.