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Jax Beach lifeguards save dying man with AED

J.R. Bourne suffered sudden cardiac arrest at age 40

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – J.R. Bourne of Jacksonville Beach is alive today, thanks to speedy first responders and a defibrillator.  Bourne, 40 years old, healthy and active, dropped to the sand in late June along Jacksonville Beach. His heart had stopped beating.

"Just kind of kicking the ball around and turned around and looked back at the shore and it just kind of went to dark," he explained.

Bourne's friend Luis called for help. A few bystanders ran to the rescue and called 911.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, they saw the Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue truck. Luckily, the lifeguards were making their morning rounds.

"I am looking and I see a woman doing chest compressions on a man and so without even really thinking, I just hopped off and ran there. Because I knew this guy needed help," said Jacksonville Beach lifeguard Sam Peters.

Bourne had no pulse. Things did not look good for him, but the lifeguards had a full medical kit in their truck, including an AED.  They revived him with the automated external defibrillator and then gave him oxygen, which is so important when every second counts.

In all, a team of seven worked on Bourne as the captain called for an ambulance. 

The team brought Bourne back to life and had him breathing by the time paramedics arrived.  First firefighters and then doctors at the Mayo Clinic Jacksonville kept Bourne alive.

"This was a very unusual, but a very instructive case in that he was literally in the right place at the right time in that he got very rapid correction of his cardiac rhythm, which is the most important thing after cardiac arrest," said Mayo Clinic cardiologist Norman Patton, who worked on Bourne when he was brought into the hospital.

Bourne suffered Sudden Cardiac Arrest, an event triggered by an electrical malfunction in his heart. 

"If uncorrected, it leads to death. So after a certain amount of time, if the heart isn't pumping, all the organs in the body die, including the heart," explained Patton.

UNCUT: Vic Micolucci's interview with Dr. Norman Patton

While doctors still don't know what caused Bourne's cardiac arrest, just a week after nearly losing his life, he returned to the beach to meet the guards who saved him. 

"I know that's what you guys say, you were just doing your job, but I am here so I really appreciate it. Thank you, thank you," said Bourne.

Now, something as simple as a handshake means so much more. With Bourne's wife and friends by his side, he's recovering quickly.  He owes his life to the first responders and an AED.

The battery-powered pack is becoming more and more common, according to Christian Smith with the American Red Cross.

"This increases your chances significantly. I mean significantly," she said.

Instructors at the Red Cross said AEDs are great supplements for traditional CPR. The unit talks a person through the process.

AED: "Analyzing heart rhythm."
AED:  "Shock advised. Charging. Stand clear of the patient."
AED:  "Shock now. Press the orange button now."

"They are truly lifesavers, but they still have a human component to them. You still have to have a human to run them," said Smith, who adds in a perfect world everyone would have one.

Bourne said he cherishes the moment lifeguards revived him with it.

WATCH: Bourne meets some of his rescuers 

"It was like the greatest breath I've ever taken," said Bourne. "They need to get more credit."

Now Bourne said he's going to push for more AEDs in public places with police, teachers, parks, even at his own office. 

"The earlier they get blood back to the brain the better," said Dr. Patton. "And it's typically, we say four to five minutes without circulation is as much as you can get away with. But it's been shown that after one minute, there's a decrease in survival, after two minutes there's a decrease in survival. So literally the earlier you can get circulation back, and in that case I know we pushed both CPR and defibrillation. But defibriliation is much more important in terms of long-term survival."

The cardiologist said while CPR works well, it's important to have access to an AED.

"They work well together, but they're doing different functions. The CPR, it's traditional, it's more widely available, all you need are a pair of hands and a mouth. And that works pretty well. But it doesn't correct the basic problem. People don't recover with CPR. They recover after they have an electrical shock to correct the heart rhythm. And that's why the earlier you get the electric shock, the better," Patton explained.