Surviving “The Silent Killer”


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A surprise birthday party is supposed to be filled with happiness. But for a Wilkes-Barre man, he nearly died in the middle of it unaware of the battle going on inside his body.

This near tragedy happened in January 2018 at a restaurant in Hanover Township. But as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, that man is now sharing his survival story thanks to a life-saving technique.

“I would say shocked. I have, you know, very little memory of the event.” What 55-year-old Lonnie Truskowski described is the night he went into sudden cardiac arrest which is the abrupt loss of heart function. “I didn’t have any of the, any of the classic symptoms either to make me think that there was an issue.”

Collapsed and within minutes of death at a friend’s surprise birthday party, good fortune stepped in. One of the party guests was a physician. Mr. Truskowski said, “He started CPR and from what I am being told he actually coached other people on how to do it.”

“That’s a pretty lucky break,” said Commonwealth Health Interventional Cardiologist Bradley Fenster, MD. The cardiac specialist at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital sees his fair share of patients whose lives were saved thanks to CPR. “More than I can remember. More than I can count at this point.”

Still only about one in ten cardiac arrest patients survives but the odds of survival nearly triple if someone who knows CPR springs to action. Dr. Fenster said, “Certainly at some schools it’s being taught. If it was taught at every school then we’d have a new generation of people that all knew CPR.”

The American Heart Association sponsors the program called “CPR In Schools” which teaches students the two simple steps of hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other life-saving skills. The American Red Cross also offers an online course. Mr. Truskowski, for one, is glad that in his darkest hour someone knew how. “Yeah, it’s a life-saver obviously.”

Mr. Truskowski underwent quadruple bypass surgery and now has a defibrillator implanted in his chest to help keep his heart in perfect rhythm.

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