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Beaufort County firefighter was at Disney with his family when he heard a call for help

Despite high rates of cardiac arrest, many Americans still can’t perform CPR

More than 300,000 people suffer cardiac arrest each year. Doing CPR properly can save someone’s life in these situations, but according to a recent Cleveland Clinic survey, only half of Americans say they know how to perform bystander CPR.
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More than 300,000 people suffer cardiac arrest each year. Doing CPR properly can save someone’s life in these situations, but according to a recent Cleveland Clinic survey, only half of Americans say they know how to perform bystander CPR.

When Matthew Maichel, battalion chief for the Burton Fire District, woke up last Friday, his main goal was getting his family lined up early at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

Little did he know that his plan to beat the crowds would end up saving the life of another vacationer.

The Maichel family of Lady’s Island was in a crowd of a couple hundred waiting for the gates of the Orlando, Florida, park to open when a man ahead of them fell to the ground.

“Fifty feet in front me me a lady started yelling for help,” Maichel said on Wednesday.

That’s when instinct and more than 20 years of experience as a firefighter kicked in, Maichel said.

“Anytime I hear a call for help, my natural reaction is to see what’s going on and see what I can do,” he said.

He and a couple of other bystanders determined that the man was unresponsive and in cardiac arrest, so they started CPR, and a Disney employee brought over a portable defibrillator.

Battalion Chief Matthew Maichel.jpg
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For 10-12 minutes, they continued CPR and used the defibrillator until paramedics with the Orlando Fire Department arrived.

When the man was taken from the scene, he had a steady pulse, Maichel said, though he was unable to find out more information about the man’s condition later.

He said the situation is not unlike those in his own community when first responders transport patients to the hospital but may not hear about their outcomes.

“We are taught that early defibrillation and early quality CPR gives the patient the best chance for survival and a return for a quality life after the incident,” he said. “Hopefully that helped him.”

Maichel was vacationing at Disney World with his family, including three children ages 9, 10 and 19.

“They are familiar with what I do, but they don’t ever get a chance to see me do any type of medical care or any type of emergency calls,” Maichel said. “It was cool to see their dad ... helping someone out, but I know that they were a little bit scared.

“A lot of people were scared. There was a lot of emotion in the crowd.”

After it was all over, Maichel said he hugged his kids and they carried on with their day.

He said Disney’s guest services thanked him multiple times and gave the family some extra fast passes to bypass the lines at some of the rides.

“Disney was great,” Maichel said. “I think this definitely was a memorable trip.”

CPR Training

Maichel said his experience at Disney World illustrates the importance of CPR training and the availability of portable defibrillators. He recommended local businesses have defibrillators and train employees in basic CPR just in case such a situation arises.

“Everyone in the community should know these skills,” said a news release from the fire district.

The Burton Fire District offers first-aid and CPR training and also trains instructors. For more information, call 843-255-8011 or email safetyed@burtonfd.org.

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Lisa Wilson is a breaking news reporter for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. The 25-year newsroom veteran has worked for papers in Louisiana and Mississippi and is happy to call the Lowcountry home.


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