YMCA employee acts to save man's life with defibrillator

Thursday, October 5, 2006
Suzanne Smith, member services director at the Salt Fork YMCA in Marshall, poses with the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) that she used to save the life of a Marshall man on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

A Marshall woman saved the life of a Marshall man on Wednesday, Oct. 4, through quick action with equipment that provides an electric shock to keep a heart running.

Russell Whyte of Marshall collapsed in the field next to the Salt Fork YMCA of Marshall. John Griffin, who was working the front desk at the YMCA, saw what had happened and notified others in the building who called the ambulance.

He then notified Suzanne Smith, who is the member services director at the YMCA.

Training and instinct took over.

"We both ran out there and then I came running back in to got the AED," Smith said. "He didn't have a pulse and the AED said to shock him."

The AED is an Automatic External Defibrillator which is used to provide the electric shock. Its instrumentation gives the operator verbal information on a patient's condition, such as whether to use the electronic shock function or not.

Smith used the AED and performed two rounds of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, before the ambulance arrived.

"He was breathing when he left," said Smith on Wednesday shortly after the incident occurred. "My training just kind of kicked in. I just hope he's okay."

Whyte's condition as of press time on Thursday, Oct. 5, is unknown. One source said he is believed to be in a Columbia hospital.

The Salt Fork YMCA has had the AED since it was donated to the Y in 2001 by the Saline County Ambulance Board. Smith reported that it was the first time that Y personnel had ever used the AED.

Up until Wednesday, she had performed CPR on only one occasion in an emergency situation.

Smith, who teaches CPR classes at the YMCA, was quick to point out that any employee at the YMCA could have done what she did. "Everyone who is employed at the YMCA is CPR- and first-aid trained. I just happened to be the one to do it," she said. "Any one out here could have done it."

YMCA Executive Director Jack Harvey said Wednesday that the incident shows the need for people to be trained for emergency situations."This shows the importance of AED- and CPR-training -- you never know when or where something will happen," Harvey said.

Smith said the YMCA offers monthly CPR and first aid classes, so that everyone can be prepared for emergencies.

She said the next CPR class will be held on Monday, Oct. 16 at the YMCA.

Contact Zach Sims at


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