As UCSB students ponder schedules, finals and the weekend, one professor is getting back to teaching after faculty and students saved his life.
Associate Professor Curt Anderson, who teaches Chemistry 109A, Organic Chemistry, returned to his class two weeks ago after recovering from a heart attack.
“There was a little confusion due to my absence, but since then the class has been back on track. The students recently took their third exam and are now preparing for their next exam,” Anderson said.
He suffered a heart attack on the morning of Oct. 11 while running an errand on the second floor of the Chemistry building.
“I was on my way to turn in an exam for duplication when I collapsed,” Anderson said.
Colleagues and students came to his aid quickly, an important factor in preventing extensive damage. When Anderson collapsed, he was in the path of Professor Alison Butler, outside the office of Dr. Paul Weakliem, who provides computer support for the Chemistry building.
“Who knows what might have happened if I had been in my office instead of there. Even a five minute difference is critical.” Anderson said.
After Anderson collapsed, Butler administered CPR, keeping Anderson alive while Weakliem called 911. The UCPD dispatcher contacted the county dispatcher, who then contacted Rescue 7, the team of student emergency technicians that responds to calls from UCSB and Isla Vista.
Eric McFarland, professor of chemical engineering and cardiologist, was working on the third floor and came down to continue CPR until Rescue 7 arrived. An administrative assistant and several students held the elevator open on the first floor for the rescue personnel. Neil Weitzel, a student EMT, was part of the team that responded to the call.
“When we arrived, [Professor Anderson] was in full arrest. We treated him and defibrillated him. It worked and he was taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital,” Weitzel said.
There, surgeons continued treatment and installed a pacemaker and defibrillator into Anderson’s chest to help prevent further complications.
“It really was a remarkable sequence of events for all those people to have been where they were at the time,” Anderson said.
The Chemistry Dept. is now working to provide a free CPR training session, as well as training in the usage of Automated External Defibrillation (AED) devices, for faculty and graduate students working in the building. These devices are simple enough to be used without training and can save the lives of heart attack victims.
Currently, there is no AED accessible within the Chemistry building.
“The [Chemistry] dept. would like to acquire one of these lifesaving devices in the future to maintain the standard of care that is expected of large institutions,” a statement from the Chemistry Dept. Safety Committee said.