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Life Saving 101

When Jerry Wiesenhahn suffered sudden cardiac arrest at the 2008 state pharmacy meetings, he was lucky ONU was there.

Wiesenhahn, a member of the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy and the Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA), likely survived his ordeal thanks to quick action from Raabe College of Pharmacy professor Dr. Michael Milks, BS Pharm ’76, and others who have benefited from the college’s progressive curriculum.

 “If Jerry had to have a heart attack somewhere, that was the place because so many people knew what to do,” said Milks. “We teach our students—don’t think, just react.”

Milks and his colleagues at Raabe teach far more than that. In 2007, ONU became the first school of pharmacy in the U.S. to have all of its graduates certified in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS).  Currently, 14 faculty members are certified ACLS instructors.

“It’s a unique part of our curriculum,” said Dr. Jon Sprague, dean of the Raabe College of Pharmacy. “They may never use it, but it’s empowering to the student. If a patient comes in with a rare arrhythmia, they know what it looks like and how it should be treated.”

ACLS certification grew out of the non-traditional doctor of pharmacy program, and was championed by its director, Dr. Karen Kier, who provides training not only to pharmacy students, but a variety of groups throughout the community.

"Dr. Kier has really been the ultimate linchpin for the inception and ongoing orchestration of the ACLS training,” said Milks.

When Wiesenhahn collapsed, he struck his head, cutting a large gash into his scalp. Milks, who was sitting behind him, was first to respond stabilizing Wiesenhahn’s cervical spine, more responders immediately assembled. A pharmacy student-EMT and a nurse who happened to be attending the ceremony began to administer first aid measures. Because Sprague was an experience ACLS course instructor, one ONU graduate called him to “run the code,” what first-responders call supervising the life support measures.

Sprague said, “I was the one looking for the AED (automated external defibrillator) which they didn’t have.”

The emergency squad arrived within six minutes and rushed Wiesenhahn to the hospital. His fellow pharmacists had doubts he would survive. Yet just days later he was on his way to a full recovery.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that if not for the quick response by my team of lifesavers, I’d be a goner,” said Wiesenhahn who continues to serve on the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. “My cardiologist told me that in situations like mine, chances of survival were about seven percent. I couldn’t be happier to defy the odds.”

In appreciation, Wiesenhahn donated an AED to OPA to have available at events held around the state and awarded Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association (SCAA) “hero” certificates and pins to Milks, Sprague, Dr. Stuart Beatty, Pharm.D. ’03, and others who came to his aid.