Did you know? University Hospitals doctor did first successful defibrillation in 1947

CLEVELAND – They are almost everywhere. You see them in schools, offices and even in hospitals. AEDs, or Automatic External Defibrillators, are installed all over to save lives when used fast enough.

“Prior to that, if you’re heart stopped beating you were dead. Period,” said Dr. Michael De Georgia, Neurologist at University Hospitals.

The first ever successful defibrillation was done in Cleveland on December 13th, 1947. Dr. Claude Beck at University Hospitals shocked a 14-year-old patient back to life with a primitive version of a defibrillator from the hospital’s lab.

“It looks a little chunky, I mean it’s a rusty, old, metal box with these two paddles. It doesn’t look very sophisticated but it obviously did the job,” De Georgia said.

John Williams has worked at Morgan Advanced Materials in Bedford for 28 years. He knows the power of an AED better than most people. Just as we was walking through the doors he had a heart attack, his heart stopped beating and he fell to the ground.

“It was just as if someone turned the light switch off in the kitchen. I went from walking through the door to waking up in the hospital,” Williams remembered.

Ironically, Williams had been the one to petition his company to get an AED for his office.

“The company finally came up with the funds to finance the purchase of these defibrillators and lo and behold who would have thought I would be the first person that it gets used on,” Williams said.

Three of Williams coworkers who had done the AED and CPR training jumped into action, including his boss, Al Metcalfe.

“I was able to get the device on John, it basically analyzed his heart and it said it recommended a shock so at that point all I had to do was press the button,” Metcalfe said.

Williams got a second chance at life that day, thanks to the vision of the Dr. Beck in the 1940’s at University Hospitals.

“These were hearts too young to die, that was what he always thought, that these hearts still had mileage in them was the way he put it and that we shouldn’t just give up on them we should try to restart the heart, it’s just an electrical problem,” Dr. De Georgia said.