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Survivor thanks those who saved his life

March 01, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- Three weeks after suffering a heart attack, David Barfell returned to Whitetail Resort, not to navigate the slopes but to thank the people credited with saving his life.

The resort hosted an event Sunday to celebrate Barfell's recovery and to present a series of awards thanking rescuers involved with his Feb. 7 medical emergency.

In remarks to the rescuers, the executive director of the Franklin County (Pa.) Chapter of the American Red Cross told them to be proud of their training and efforts.

"Really, you are a hero. You saved a life," Thomas Reardon said.

Barfell, 45, collapsed during a warm-up ski run on a sunny morning that brought out large crowds.

A passing skier, Dennis Truelove, discovered that Barfell did not have a pulse and started CPR. Soon, Whitetail's ski patrol and other employees converged on the guest, who had no prior indication of heart problems.

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"Within 35 minutes, the man was off the snow and on his way to Washington County Hospital," said Mike Schuman, the resort's safety director.

Barfell, of Columbia, Md., was transferred to another hospital and remained there until about a week ago. He has forgotten everything that happened in the two weeks prior to the collapse.

"The first thing I remember is waking up in the hospital," he said.

He's been restricted to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and has been told he can't resume full physical activity for eight months. For now, though, he's grateful to be alive and spending time with his wife, Glenda, and 8-year-old daughter, Summer.

"She wrote at school that Monday that (the collapse) was the worst day of her life," Barfell said.

A few years ago, Barfell lost a friend who he believes could have been saved by an automatic external defibrillator (AED). Now, having been saved by one of the devices himself, Barfell has a renewed confidence in the devices and CPR.

Whitetail Resort acquired its first AED in 2000. Schuman said he remembers just three heart attacks occurring at the resort in the decade he's worked there.

Reardon said that of the 5,000 people trained in CPR annually in Franklin County, only 1 percent will be called upon to use their skills. Yet, he attributed those skills to Barfell being in the 5 percent of people who survive what he experienced.

Truelove, the guest who initially helped Barfell, trained as a firefighter. He was unable to attend Sunday's luncheon, but he sent a letter that was read to the group.

"I only did what anyone else would do in the same scenario," he wrote.

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