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A new way to prevent sudden cardiac arrest can be worn outside the body instead of implanted in the chest.  A defibrillator can provide life-saving treatment without you or anyone else lifting a finger.

“I had a sharp pain in the center of my chest and I was a little short of breath,” says Darl Reed.

It took the 50-year-old about an hour to realize that he was having a heart attack.  By then, the panic had set in.

“I was really scared at that point.  I thought ‘Wow, I’m really in trouble,’” he says.

Reed was taken by LifeFlight to Iowa Methodist in Des Moines.  Doctors removed the 100% blockage in one of his main arteries and put in a stint.  They sent him home the following week with a LifeVest.  It’s a wearable defibrillator that not only detects and monitors irregular heart rhythms, but can provide a life-saving shock to the heart if necessary.

“It probably saved my life the next weekend when my heart went back into V-tach,” says Reed.

“It’s very little time between where the brain is not getting blood and the time that the LifeVest saves their life,” says Dr. Pamela Nerheim.

Before paramedics arrived, the vest had shocked his heart and returned it to a normal rhythm.

“It’s like getting kicked by a horse.  It really hurts, but I felt perfect immediately afterwards.  It fixed my heart rate.  I felt good.  Almost like there was nothing wrong with me,” says Reed.

Reed doesn’t have to wear the vest anymore.  Now, he has an implanted defibrillator, takes medication, and has regular check-ups.

“I think we put it on quite a few patients to save one, but for that person, it’s everything,” says Nerheim.

Nerheim says about twenty of her patients are wearing the LifeVest.  The device is covered by most insurance plans.