Brennan survives, then gives back
The irony is a bit chilling. Perhaps unsettling and alarming even.
On a Sunday back in 1988, Ted Brennan’s father suffered a heart attack in church when he was 51 years old. He didn’t survive.
Nearly 30 years later to the day, and at the same age as his father, Ted suffered one as well.
“I have a family history,” Brennan said. “My father at the age of 51, which I am, on May 15, had a heart attack at church. He didn’t survive. He had my brother right there doing CPR and he was a lifeguard, and there was also a registered nurse. The difference is that the AED was on me within five to 10 minutes, whereas that didn’t happen for my dad.”
Brennan was running in the French Creek Triathlon in Philadelphia back on May 20. During the race, which includes a 26-mile bike ride, a 10K run and one-mile swim, that history caught up with him.
At the five-mile mark of the running portion of the race, just after passing an aid station, Brennan went down to the ground with a heart attack. Brennan survived the unexpected attack.
“I was actively pursuing not having any heart issues,” Brennan said. “Could I eat a little better and not have that cheesesteak or whatever? Yes. Absolutely. But my wife is a dietician. I eat healthy. I was exercising probably close to an hour or more per day. And people that know me, that’s kind of why it’s shocking to them. But at the end of the day, your ancestry and genes is what it is. You can’t run away from that.”
Loretta Connaughton, who was helping at that aid station, quickly performed CPR on Brennan. Minutes later, an automated external defibrillator (AED) was used to shock his heart back to a beat.
It’s a device that was not available or used on Brennan’s father 30 years ago. So, Ted is well aware of the impact the AED had on saving his life. Once at Reading Hospital, doctors induced a coma and lowered his body temperate for a hopeful recovery.
During his time in the coma, Ted’s wife, Jennifer, and a couple of family friends came up with the idea to start a GoFundMe page.
The idea was to start a fundraiser and raise $5,000 to purchase an AED for Trident Swim Club. Brennan is the president of the ABE Swim League.
“People want to do things,” Brennan said. “People thought, well let’s bring flowers or food or whatever. She was just like, ‘I don’t want to be overwhelmed with 10 lasagnas and 24 chicken casseroles or whatever else.’ So they came up with the idea of a GoFundMe page and to take that money and buy AEDs.”
Robin Paradise was a part of bringing the GoFundMe fundraiser together. They quickly realized Trident was not the only pool in the swim league that did not have an AED on site. Neither did eight of the 12 pools in the league. Others had one on site, but did not know exactly where it was located.
“If nothing else, awareness had arisen,” Brennan said. “If you are in your house doing house work and you have a sudden cardiac arrest, your chances of survival are less than 10 percent. If your wife is home or your brother or sister or girlfriend, boyfriend, whomever, and they see you go down right away and they call for help and do some life saving technique, your chances go up to about 30 percent.
“Once an AED is applied within the first five or 10 minutes, your chance of survival goes up to 74 percent.”
For Brennan, that device was applied as quickly as possible when he went down nearly three months ago. It very well was the difference between life and death.
“All of those things happened instantaneously and almost as quickly as humanly possible could have happened for me,” Brennan said. “So, why not make that available to anyone and everybody that goes to a pool or wherever. That’s really the thought process.”
They raised $1,000 in just the first hour and were able to adjust their goal. It went up to $10,000, and then $15,000 shortly later. To date, the fund has raised over $20,000 and 15 AEDs have been purchased for facilities around the Lehigh Valley.
In addition to the eight pools that received them, one was given to South Mountain Cycle and Cafe in Emmaus, one to the Lehigh Valley Road Runners and one to the Boys and Girls Scouts of Saint Thomas Moore. Others were given to individuals.
“There is an opportunity here to put these in more places,” Brennan said. “I think it’s something bigger than what I can do. But if we can get somebody to take that, then maybe that’s where it goes. If nothing else, there are 15 out there that weren’t out there before. And that’s a great thing.”
Brennan is currently going through physical therapy three times per week and has no restrictions. But as a pilot for United Airlines, he must reapply (the earliest he can after his incident is 90 days) for his license in order to return to flying, which he hopes to do in September.
He said he doesn’t have the desire to race right now, but there’s no question that he will again. That might come in the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon next year.
“The race is really there at the end to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which was to prevent me from having a heart attack. It didn’t work out so well,” Brennan said with a laugh.