by David Kearns
Jack Burklew was picking up branches during Keep Indian River Beautiful’s annual cleanup Saturday when his heart began to fail.
About 10 a.m., the 71-year-old collapsed, hitting his head on the pavement.
Less than a minute after a radio call for help, Sebastian police Officer Chris Rodriguez arrived. He brought with him a defibrillator, a $3,000 machine that jump-starts a failing or irregular heartbeat.
Burklew "had a very weak pulse," Sebastian police Chief Randy White said. "The machine advised a shock was needed so Chris shocked him one time. He could see his chest rising and his pulse came back real strong (afterwards)," White said. "The doctors and paramedics said (Rodriguez and the AED) saved his life."
Paramedics took Burklew to Sebastian River Medical Center, then later to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne. He was in good condition Monday afternoon and resting comfortably.
This is the second time a city resident was saved by a defibrillator carried in an officer’s patrol car. Last year, officers Bill Jursik and Steve Marcinik saved the life of an elderly Sebastian resident using a defibrillator, White said.
The department bought five of the devices in 1998, one for each vehicle on the road. The city used about $5,000 donated by city service organizations such as the Rotary, and $10,000 in city money.
After Burklew’s collapse Saturday, fellow Rotarian and former city manager Thomas Frame said he phoned Burklew’s wife. Gene Rauth, operations manager for Indian River County Utilities, and Sebastian City Manager Terrence Moore tried to make Burklew comfortable and took his pulse.
"You hate to see anything like that happen to anybody, especially someone who has taken the time to give to his community," Frame said." We are very concerned about him. He’s well-known and well-liked in the community."
White said Rodriguez likely will be honored at an upcoming meeting of the Sebastian City Council for his work.
"Chris is a good, aggressive officer," White said.