Defibrillator vest saves Sussex man’s life more than once

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SUSSEX (WITI) -- It's not a fashion statement.  It's a life saving medical device. The LifeVest is a wearable defibrillator you can wear under your clothes, that will shock you if you have a heart attack. One recently saved the life of a Sussex man, twice!

Gordon Hadfield had chest pains for one week by the time he visited a doctor.  Hadfield passed his doctor's tests and was actually walking out the door of Wheaton-Franciscan, when the attack happened.

"Walked out the door and it was like somebody put a knife in me.  I was keeled over and my shirt was all wet," Hadfield said.

"I said 'we're going right back in," Hadfield's wife, Pat said.

That same day, the 58-year-old survived bypass surgery.

"It was just one day I'll never forget," Pat Hadfield said.

Dr. Daniel Hemsworth showed FOX6 News the three blocked arteries in Hadfield's heart.  When it came time for Hadfield's release from the hospital, Dr. Hemsworth recommended the LifeVest.  It's a wearable defibrillator that monitors a patient's heart for irregularities and can even take life-saving measures.

"It can deliver life saving therapy by shocking the heart back into rhythm," Dr. Hemsworth said.

The LifeVest has been accessible to Milwaukee patients for years now, though the model has been upgraded.

The LifeVest is a short-term solution until a defibrillator can be implanted in a patient's chest.  Hadfield put his LifeVest on reluctantly.

"I didn't know if I wanted it.  I felt, 'I'm gonna be okay.  What the heck to I need this for?'" Hadfield said.

As Hadfield filled out his discharge papers to leave the hospital, he had a second attack.

"All of a sudden, he wasn't answering.  It was like, 'Gordie?  Gordie?'  And then I just started screaming," Pat Hadfield said.

As nurses rushed in to help, the LifeVest was kicking in.

"It actually kind of spoke to you, 'just stand back.  Don't touch the patient.'  I watched as it hit him," Pat Hadfield said.

The shock from the vest restarted Hadfield's heart, and Hadfield began to wear the vest around the clock.

Later in the week, still in the hospital, Hadfield's heart failed again.  One more time the LifeVest saved his life.

Hadfield wore the LifeVest until the doctors could implant a defibrillator in his heart, which was a few weeks later.  His recovery is going as well as his family could hope for.

"He was in the right place at the right time and it was not his time," Pat Hadfield said.

"I don't take life for granted no more. I'm hoping I got a lot of years ahead of me. I got six grandchildren, and I'd like to see them all grow up," Hadfield said.

The vest contains electrodes that monitor the heart and can detect cardiac arrest. It's not for everybody -- just people doctors feel are at a greater risk of an attack.

Most patients wear the vest for about three months, until they can get into surgery.