When Poel wasn’t supervising the night shift as a sergeant for the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety, attending his sons’ athletic events or volunteer coaching, he enjoyed playing hockey.
In the second period of that game two years ago, Poel collapsed on the ice. He had suffered a heart attack.
Now, on the second anniversary of his heart attack, Poel said he feels “blessed” to be alive and feeling well.
Nate Morgan, captain of the Muskegon Township Fire Department, had played in a game prior to Poel’s team, and was still at the ice rink when Poel collapsed and lay unconscious on the ice. As Morgan began attempting to resuscitate Poel, he remembered that an automated external defibrillator — a device that uses electrical shocks to restart a heart — had been donated to the ice rink.
While Morgan continued to work on Poel, a rink employee — trained to use an AED — attached the device to Poel. Poel was shocked twice before his heart finally started to beat again.
“I was technically dead,” Poel said. “I was told the second shock restarted my heart.”
Poel was then stabilized by medics and first-responders, and taken by ambulance to Mercy Hospital in Muskegon.
Lisa Poel, Randy’s wife, who often attended her husband’s hockey games, decided on this night to stay home and watch the USA and Canada hockey game. Kurt Klaassen, a teammate of Randy’s, called Lisa with the news.
A few days later, Randy was transferred to Spectrum Health Center in Grand Rapids, where doctors examined him to determine a course of action. The doctors discovered he had a severe blockage of the left anterior artery.
“They told me I should be dead,” Randy recalled.
The doctors also discovered that Randy was born with a birth defect that made him vulnerable to a heart attack.
“It was in my genes, and I had this my entire life, “ Randy said. “The doctors called me the miracle man.”
On March 1, 2010 — just one day before his 48th birthday — Randy underwent heart surgery. Doctors were able to successfully tie a piece of artery that wasn’t being used to his heart. He developed an infection six weeks later, and had to be hospitalized again. But, after that, he was on the road to recovery.
Randy and Lisa are now working to ensure there are AEDs available in as many public gathering buildings as possible so that other lives can be saved.
“People kept calling and asking what they could do for us,” Lisa recalled. “Then a light bulb went off in my head — the Edge (hockey rink in Holland) needed an AED.”
Randy and Lisa to date have raised nearly $30,000 and have purchased 28 AEDs for area buildings, including ice rinks that didn’t have the devices. A majority of the money came from a fundraiser held last summer at the Porto Bello Restaurant in Grand Haven. The remaining money has come from friends, family members and other donors.
Anyone wishing to donate to the Poels’ AED fundraiser can send checks (payable to the city of Grand Haven/AED fund) to Grand Haven City Hall, 519 Washington Ave., Grand Haven, MI 49417.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.