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71-year-old Man Saves Best Friend's Life with AED, CPR After Heart Attack

Updated: May 1, 2022

It was a normal day.

Bill Winness was walking his normal route through the Western Mall with his two friends the morning of April 5 when one started to feel dizzy. He urged Winness to keep going while he sat and rested for a bit.

Just minutes later, a woman came running after the 71-year-old and his friend, Ray Smidt, to tell them that their friend, Keith Clark, was suffering a heart attack.

They ran back as fast as they could. The next thing Winness knew, he was grabbing the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) inside the building while Smidt ran to Clark's aid. Winness was by Clark's side instantly after grabbing the AED.

Winness was trained how to use the AED, an electronic device that diagnoses a cardiac arrest, and how to apply electricity in the event of one, in addition to CPR training years ago. All he remembered were the basics, but that was enough.

Bill Winness, left, and Ray Smidt, right, walk the Western Mall together Tuesday, April 9, in Sioux Falls. Winness and Smidt's friend Keith Clark, 81, had a heart attack last week during their morning walk.

The three of them usually walk the mall together. They have been doing their morning routine without Keith until he gets better. (Photo: Briana Sanchez / Argus Leader)

Winness doesn't remember panicking, just taking the steps he needed to save his best friend's life.

"I guess you just do whatever you have to do, you know? You don’t really think about it," Winness said.

The first step in using the AED was to apply adhesive strips to Clark's chest for the AED to read what should be done. Since Clark had a pacemaker, the AED just instructed Winness to give CPR. He started chest compressions while another bystander stood on the line with a 9-1-1 dispatcher.

Bill Winness talks about the AED, Automated External Defibrillator, he used Tuesday, April 9, at the Western Mall in Sioux Falls. Winness' friend Keith, 81, suffered a heart attack last week during their normal walking route at the mall.

What Winness did helped provide the necessary oxygen to Clark's brain and helped his heart pump blood while they waited for emergency responders.

It was only minutes, but what he did was vital to preserving Clark's well-being, according to Scott Christensen, director of clinical service for Patient Care EMS.

"It buys time," Christensen said. "That time it takes for someone to call for help until first responders arrive, it's important for someone trained in CPR to give that type of care and assistance. All of that together is what helped save Keith's life."

If Winness wasn't there to give CPR before units arrived, Christensen speculated that Clark might have passed away.

Clark, 81, was released from the heart hospital Friday. He's in relatively good condition, and was advised by his doctor to "lay low" for a few weeks.

This was Clark's second heart attack, and he's been suffering episodes for half his life. Winness and Clark talked about what they would do if this happened. They were prepared as much as they could be.

"We all knew where the defibrillator was mounted. We walk by it every day," Clark said. "I think everybody should know CPR. It probably doesn't hurt if everybody knew where these AEDs were either."

There are over 700 AEDs in buildings around Sioux Falls, mostly in public places such as schools and churches, said Jeremy Robertson, EMS educator for Sioux Falls Fire Rescue.

Robertson said the fire department recommends to businesses how to mount the AEDs so they're easily seen. The Pulsepoint app also shows where AEDs are located in a building, if SFFR is aware of it.

For Winness, he's grateful he remembered where the AED was in the Western Mall and that he and other bystanders were able to intervene and help Clark.

"You don’t have to be old to get a heart attack," Winness said. "Anyone can get one. If someone knows a little CPR it sure can make a big difference."



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