OCEANSIDE — A celebration of survival and gratitude took place at Oceanside Lifeguard Headquarters May 23.
Dina Gibson survived a cardiac arrest that was triggered by a freak surfing accident May 6. She thanked and hugged lifeguards and firefighter paramedics who saved her life two weeks earlier.
“I was looking forward to seeing this face,” said Gibson, as she met Lifeguard Alaina Dickens who was the first responder on the scene.
Gibson is an experienced surfer who was participating in the memorial paddleout for Junior Seau May 6. Crowds of over 15,000 people filled the beach and water as she walked her board out and was hit by a fellow surfer in two feet of water.
Those around her saw her go under and tried to help, but it was Dickens who gave Gibson immediate CPR until Gibson could be further treated with an AED (automated external defibrillator) and taken to the hospital.
Dickens described her quick response after seeing Gibson in trouble as “instinctual.”
“You do what you have to do,” Dickens said.
Gibson remained in the hospital for two weeks. The accident brought attention to a blocked artery she had and that needed to be treated.
Now out of he hospital Gibson said it is her mission to spread awareness of CPR, 911 calls, and AEDs.
“It was a wake up call,” Gibson said. “My No. 1 word right now is gratitude. I had so many angles lined up.”
Gibson plans to have professionals share CPR instruction with members of her Oceanside Longboard Surfing Club. There will also be a sidewalk CPR demonstration by Oceanside firefighters at an upcoming Thursday morning farmer’s market.
Karen McElliott, of San Diego Project Heart Beat, is also a proponent of letting people know about AEDs. Her husband suffered a heart attack after running a 10K race. There was not an AED on site and he lost his life.
Gibson is the 100 th life saved locally by an AED within the last 10 years. The device is in every Oceanside city building, in every fire engine, and available for every police officer to check out when they go on patrol. Donations by Oceanside Rotary and Kiwanis clubs have made AEDs available throughout the city.
“CPR and AEDs work hand and hand,” Maureen O’Connor, program manager for San Diego Project Heart Beat, said. “CPR supplies oxygen rich blood and AEDs administer electric shocks through the chest wall to the heart.”
AEDs can be used without formal training. Recorded instructions tell first responders step-by-step instructions on what to do.
It is highly recommended people also take CPR classes and always call 911 when there is a life-threatening emergency.