Veterinarians Honored for Their Role in Saving a Human Life

A vet’s experience in saving the lives of foals helped her save the life of one human being.

When an emergency happens, it’s good to have a veterinarian or two around, even if there are no animals present.

Last week, the Lexington, Kentucky, City Council honored two veterinarians last week for saving a life, but it wasn’t one of the many horses or other animals they help in their day jobs. Dr. Allison Stewart and Dr. Karen Wolfsdorf are credited with saving a fellow human being.

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that on October 31, 2016, Dave Barberie, an attorney for the city of Lexington, suffered a heart malfunction, or sudden cardiac arrest. In 90 percent of incidents, victims of sudden cardiac arrest don’t survive, but Barberie was in the right place.

The incident occurred during a TRX exercise class at the High Street YMCA. TRX is a form of exercise that uses suspension bands for various strength-building exercises. Barberie collapsed during the class, and Dr. Wolfsdorf, a veterinarian at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, sprung to action.

Dr. Stewart, a recent vet school graduate who works at the Boonesboro Animal Clinic, returned from running laps on the track and quickly joined in to help.

“We were all in shock,” Dr. Wolfsdorf. “I remember I cleared his throat and opened his airway, and then Allison started to do chest compressions.”

The vets worked on Barberie until the paramedics arrived. They had to shock him four times to get his heart started again. He was taken to the nearby University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital where he received a pacemaker and a defibrillator which will restart his heart if he ever suffers cardiac arrest again. Four months later, he’s back to his exercise routine at the Y, thanks to some quick action by YMCA staff, city paramedics, and his medically trained

The two veterinarians hadn’t met prior to this incident. Neither one had ever performed CPR on a human, either. Dr. Stewart had prior CPR certification, however, and Dr. Wolfsdorf said she had given CPR to foals.

“For Allison and I, we were used to medical emergencies, so we just jumped in,” Dr. Wolfsdorf told the Herald Leader. “I had never performed CPR on a human before, and I don’t think I want to do it again.”

Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky.



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