Richland man credits wearable defibrillator with saving his life

Leroy Gamble doesn’t remember much about the sudden cardiac arrest that almost killed him.

It was March 10, and the 79-year-old Richland man was home.

“I go to bed quite late. My wife was already in bed. I went from the living room and started down the hall. Apparently, I passed out there,” he told the Herald.

Paramedics resuscitated the Navy veteran and rushed him to the hospital.

Gamble was diagnosed with a heart condition.

He needed an implantable defibrillator — a device that could shock his heart out of an abnormal and life-threatening rhythm.

While he waited for that more permanent fix, Dr. James Kneller, a Kadlec Clinic electrophysiology cardiologist, prescribed him a LifeVest wearable defibrillator as something of a stop gap.

It was a good thing. In April, Gamble had another sudden cardiac arrest.

He was wearing the vest, and it worked as it was supposed to.

“I’m here — that’s what it provided. Without it, I probably wouldn’t be here. It’s really good. It served its purpose,” Gamble said.

He and Kneller spoke with reporters Thursday about the LifeVest defibrillator, a relatively new technology that’s becoming more widely used.

Both said they hope to spread awareness.

“Sudden cardiac death risk is very real. Appropriate patients should be offered defibrillator protection. Part of (that) is the wearable defibrillator,” Kneller said.

Sudden cardiac arrest happens when the heart abruptly stops.

About 350,000 Americans die from it each year, most before they reach emergency help, according to information from Kadlec.

The LifeVest is worn under the clothes. It monitors the heart and delivers a shock if needed.

Gamble doesn’t use a vest anymore; he now has the implanted defibrillator.

He appeared to be healthy and feeling good as he shared his story — and he said he’s glad he had the vest when he needed it.

“I think that the more people know of its existence and that there’s something there to help” the better, he said.

“It saved my life, as far as I am concerned,” Gamble said.