By DAVID KARP and LEONORA LaPETER
Published October 2, 2003
TAMPA - What happened to Bill McBride?
Doctors still did not know for certain why the former candidate for governor collapsed Tuesday while running on a treadmill at the Harbour Island Athletic Club & Spa, a family friend and spokesman said Wednesday.
"The most you can say is his heart was not functioning properly," said Bob Bolt, a longtime friend and law partner.
McBride was listed in fair condition late Wednesday at Tampa General Hospital, and Bolt said the 58-year-old lawyer and 2002 Democratic nominee for governor would remain at the hospital for more tests.
What is clear is that after McBride collapsed, staff members at the athletic club grabbed a portable defibrillator they had on hand for emergencies, and the machine administered a shock to his heart.
That's a scene that's becoming more common after a push to get more of the potentially lifesaving devices in public places.
The American Heart Association even issued a news release about McBride's case.
"In this case, the AED (automatic external defibrillator) worked perfectly in delivering a lifesaving shock that allowed Bill McBride to get to the hospital to receive early advance care," said Dr. Charles Sand, an emergency room physician at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa and president-elect of the American Heart Association Florida/Puerto Rico board of directors.
Bolt acknowledged that a defibrillator revived McBride. Initial tests performed Tuesday night did not point to a heart attack, Bolt said. Within 45 minutes of the incident, Bolt said McBride was in stable condition at TGH.
"The word was, "It doesn't look like a heart attack, but we can't explain what happened,"' Bolt said.
The portable device would deliver a shock only if a patient had suffered cardiac arrest, which is not the same as a heart attack, Sand said. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart quivers, or gets an irregular rhythm, and stops pumping blood, he said.
An AED does not require any training to operate. Someone connects electrodes to a person's chest. The machine reads the heart's rhythm and determines if an electric shock is required. If the right conditions aren't present, it won't administer the shock.
Florida was the first state to pass legislation in 1997 allowing everyday people to use defibrillators without fear of liability. Today, thousands of the devices are sitting in drawers and hanging on walls in gyms, churches, major corporations, golf courses, airports, doctor's offices and government buildings across the country.
There are some 250 defibrillators in Hillsborough County today, up from a dozen just two years ago. Pinellas County, one of the few counties in the state with an ordinance requiring the defibrillators to be registered, has 346 of them in public places. The instruments cost from $800 to $3,000.
"This is what brings people back," Sand said. "That's the whole concept. You put the defibrillators in the community and you let the community do the defibrillating."
Sand, who hopes to one day have 1,000 defibrillators registered in each of Florida's major metropolitan areas, said that if the heart stops for four to six minutes, there is typically brain damage. But often too much time has passed by the time paramedics get there. About 250,000 people die of cardiac arrest each year in the United States.
As for McBride, family members did not wish to release more information about him or make his doctor available for comment, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Wednesday morning, Bolt said McBride was sitting up in bed, "hungry as a horse," his trademark appetite restored. He was finishing his second bowl of cereal.
"He looked like he had wrestled a bear all night," Bolt said. "But other than being pretty tired and still resting and recovering from the medication, his attitude was excellent."
Before running for governor, McBride was managing partner of Holland & Knight. He beat former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in the Democratic primary, but lost the 2002 general election to Gov. Jeb Bush. He then joined the Tampa law firm of Bolt, Kirkwood, Long & McBride.