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Vest technology saves life of Humboldt County cardiology patient

A Eureka man is the first in Humboldt County to have his life saved by a medical technology that’s new to the region. It’s called the “life vest”.


"Thank god for the vest," said 78-year-old patient Philip Wentworth, "It's one of these devices that keeps you alive."


He was fitted with the vest after his heart started to give out in June of 2013.


"We found out that he had a severe cardiomyopathy severe weakening of the heart muscle,” said Wentworth’s Cardiologist Doctor Andrew Michaels, who was in the emergency room to treat Wentworth. He says the incident wasn’t severe enough for surgery, that’s where the vest comes in.


"And we knew he was at a very high risk to develop an abnormal heart rhythm so we fitted him with a life vest before he left the hospital."


The vest is worn under a patient’s clothes like a backpack. There are three pads and four electrodes inside of it. The three pads shock the patient if his or her heart rhythm gets off of what it normally should be… which is exactly what it did for Wentworth a few weeks after starting to wear the device. 


"And two minutes later the vest shocked me, and that woke me up for sure!" Wentworth said.


"The vest only delivers a shock if the patient is unconscious and is having a life threatening abnormal heart rhythm," explained Dr. Michaels.


After the shock, Philip’s wife was able to get him up and back to the Emergency Room where he underwent surgery to put in a permanent defibrillator.


Wentworth said it’s been working well ever since. 


"Philip is doing great with his rehab- he's exercising," Dr. Michaels added, it’s good news for the patient… ex-marine… and family man, who’s doctor says might not be here today.


“I think he would have died. He would have died in his sleep."


Wentworth adds, "My dad died of a heart attack when he was 72. I just turned 78.”


He wants to make it to 100 years old.


The “life vest” is the first wearable defibrillator. It was approved by the FDA in 2001, but has only been in use on the North Coast since 2011. It took two shocks for Wentworth, but experts on the device say it has a 98% first treatment shock success rate.