One of Us: J.R. Bourne Reborn on Jacksonville Beach Two Years Ago

J.R. Bourne, with his wife Pam, went into sudden cardiac arrest on June 27, 2015. Quick reactions by a bystander who knew CPR and by a group of lifeguards who had an AED (automated external defibrillator) that shocks the heart back into rhythm saved Bourne. Now he’s become an advocate for teaching CPR to everyone and expanding the available supple of AEDs. (Photo by Christine McFaul)

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Two years ago, on Saturday, June 27, 2015, J.R. Bourne died.

He was kicking a soccer ball around with a friend on Jacksonville Beach when he went into sudden cardiac arrest.

But a nearby bystander knew CPR and began it immediately. A group of seven volunteer lifeguards were only a few yards away. They had an AED (automated external defibrillator) which shocked his heart back into action twice.

Within minutes he was in a rescue vehicle in route to Baptist Medical Center Beaches.

“If you look at the way the day played out, it was a miracle,” said Bourne, now 42. “The chain of survival was flawless.”

Once he was stabilized, he was transferred to the Mayo Clinic where his primary-care physician works. There, he went through a battery of tests. He has a history of an irregular heart beat but it had never caused him any issues. Doctors determined his arteries were unblocked and that the cause of his sudden cardiac arrest couldn’t be identified.

They placed an ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator) in his chest. Six months later, while he was playing golf, he felt a jolt in his chest when the device went off.

But Bourne, who is manager of Corporate Marketing for the PGA Tour, has learned to live with the device and with the uncertainty of if or when it will go off again.

He has joined the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association and spends time in online chat rooms with others who have survived sudden cardiac arrest.

“That helps me cope,” he said.

He has also developed what his wife Pam has called “a fever for advocacy.”

His story was featured in a short film shown during the First Coast Heart & Stroke Ball in January. He has become a strong advocate of people learning hands only CPR.

“It’s so easy to learn CPR,” he said. “All adults should be able to give CPR. It’s life changing.”

Last month the Duval County School Board voted unanimously to begin providing free, hands-only CPR training to every high school senior, a decision Bourne supports.

He also advocates getting more AEDs in circulation. He said the devices can be bought for about $1,500.

Although he was apprehensive at first about exercise, he now runs, goes paddle boarding and rides a mountain bike on the trails of Hanna Park.

“And I’m trying to get into yoga,” he said.

He knows how lucky he was that day two years ago.

“Less than 10 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside a hospital survive,” he said. “At the end of my life, I’ll look back and feel this is more positive than negative.”

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