by Paul Nowell
CONCORD, N.C. – Warren Scoggin Jr. was leaving Lowe’s Motor Speedway last May after attending a stock car race with his son, Shane, when he suddenly went into full cardiac arrest.
"We had just enjoyed one of those special father-and-son days at the track and Shane looks over and his dad is clinically dead," Scoggin, 56, of Brevard, said Thursday.
What happened next was the result of some good fortune and some very good planning.
Thanks to a pilot project involving the North Carolina Highway Patrol and the University of North Carolina Hospitals, trooper Mike McLeod was one of the first people to arrive after Scoggin collapsed on the pavement on Speedway Boulevard, just outside the race track.
As it turned out, McLeod was carrying the portable defibrillator he had been trained to use as part of the two-year pilot project. Using the device, he was able to resuscitate Scoggin.
Scoggin became the first person in North Carolina whose life was saved by a state trooper using the device since 200 highway patrol officers were trained to use the defibrillators last winter.
"I never imagined I would be the first one to use it," McLeod said at a ceremony at the race track, where Scoggin’s employer, Frito Lay, presented a check for $3,168 for the Highway Patrol to buy another portable defibrillator. "I’m real pleased it turned out the way it did."
Scoggin and his 19-year-old son were leaving the Carquest Auto Parts 300 Busch Grand National race last May 29 when he started experiencing chest pains. When motorcycle troopers John Tomer and J.K. Holland arrived after being summoned by an off-duty nurse, Scoggin was lying on the pavement near his pickup truck.
The troopers started performing CPR on Scoggin, who was not breathing, while McLeod set up the defibrillator.
McLeod, 28, who is from Sylva and works in Jackson County, said he got a pulse after the first shock. A helicopter transported Scoggin to Carolinas Medical Center. Less than two weeks later, he walked out of the hospital under his own power.
"We’re pretty excited about this," said McLeod. "After all, troopers are often the very first person on the scene at traffic accidents. We drive up to them all the time."
Blake Thompson, operations director of the Frito Lay Logistics Centerin Charlotte, said the company was thankful for the efforts of the troopers and others to save Scoggin’s life.
"Donating another defibrillator to the Highway Patrol seemed like the right thing to do, and I hope it will save another life someday," he said.
Using a plastic dummy, McLeod gave the audience a quick demonstration. Once the user opens up the device, it gives verbal instructions about how to attach the defibrillator to the victim. The user is then instructed to push a button that sends out the life-saving shock.
"This was the extent of my heroism, pushing the button," McLeod said. "It only took one shock to bring Mr. Scoggin back." Despite his protests, all three troopers were presented with heroism awards by the Highway Patrol.
One hundred of the portable defibrillators went on the road with the Highway Patrol eight months ago as part of the UNC-Chapel Hill Hospitals study. Right now, 200 troopers are trained to use them and share the units on alternating shifts.
"What happened outside this track last May was the textbook situation," said Dr. Thomas R. Griggs, the patrol’s medical director. He proposed the pilot program along with Dr. William E. Sanders Jr., an assistant professor of medicine at UNC Hospitals.
"We wanted to place them where large numbers of people are going to be," Griggs said.
According to the American Heart Association, time is critical for cardiac arrest victims. Published studies have proven that early defibrillation within the first few minutes of a heart attack can save up to 50 percent of the victims.
"God was smiling on Warren Scoggin that day," said Major Donald King of the Highway Patrol. "The right people were there at the right time."
For Scoggin, it’s a day he’ll never forget.
"I told my son later that I was so sorry he had to go through this," he said. "Then I realized, if things had gone any different I wouldn’t be here today."