Quick action by members of the Beacon Hill Country Club saved a life this spring when long-time caddie master Larry McHugh suffered a cardiac episode at the club.
John Isaksen, his son Eric, and Steve Schweizer – all volunteer firefighters who had undergone cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training – were relaxing over dinner.
“I had played golf that day and Eric came to dinner because, as a merchant seaman, he was shipping out for Taiwan the next day. Steve was having dinner with his wife Katherine,” said John Isaksen, a former chief of the Middletown Township Fire Department.
Club member Mike Matthews, who had found the prone McHugh, rushed into the dining room to announce that the caddie master was stricken outside the building.
“Between Steve and myself, we have about 80 years of volunteer service and we retrain in CPR every two years. Fortunately, the club had a defibrillator kit in the clubhouse. We shocked Larry three times with it. The heart needed to be shocked to be put back into proper rhythm,” Isaksen explained.
Many factors were in play. “Larry was found very quickly, thanks to Mike Matthews. Eric and Steve started the CPR and I got the defibrillator going,” Isaksen added.
Allen Dibling, beverage manager at the club, had just been trained in CPR and jumped in to help as did two local police officers who arrived within 10 minutes. Eric Isaksen had called for an ambulance, which also arrived quickly.
The group continued CPR for 20 minutes until McHugh’s heart rate recovered to 100 beats per minute. He was then rushed to nearby Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank before he was transferred to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune where he spent two weeks.
“I would’ve felt terrible if I didn’t know what to do,” said Eric Isaksen, 26. Eric, John and Steve have all been recognized with life-saving medals by the Middletown Fire Department.
Working Late May Have Saved His Life
“I worked a little later than normal that day, and it’s a good thing, because this might have happened on my car ride back to Brick and I would not have been saved,” said McHugh, 62, who has worked at Beacon Hill for five decades, including the past 24 as caddie master.
“Heroes are made in a lot of different ways. I thank these guys for the way they kept their calm. It’s a skill to stay calm, especially when you’re working on someone you know,” McHugh said.
Two days later, he woke up in the hospital, surrounded by family, including his brother who had flown up from Florida. “I definitely thought I had a stroke,” said McHugh.
It’s worth noting that McHugh’s daughter, Stephanie, delivered a girl – his third grandchild – one month later. “I’m touched by the fact that over 100 club members texted me.”
The Importance of a Defibrillator
Beacon Hill has added three more Automated External Defibrillator kits for a total of four. One is in the maintenance area, another in the pool area, and a third on a roving cart.
“The fact that we had the defibrillator on hand greatly enhanced Larry’s chance for survival,” said Schweizer, the deputy chief of the Middletown Fire Department. “Since the incident, the club has done additional training and more than 45 members have undergone CPR training. We want to send a message that all clubs should be prepared for emergencies like this.”
“Larry and I have worked very closely the past 24 years,” said Beacon Hill head PGA professional Chuck Edwards. “Larry is the most dependable employee anyone could have. He is like a family member. The whole staff was devastated by the news.
“It’s a remarkable story. He needed a lot of things to go his way that day and they did. And he was back to work in three weeks, even though he was in a medically-induced coma for a couple days. You can’t keep him away.
“You never think something like this will happen at your club. There are some many people coming in and out. We have 20,000 rounds of golf played here each year. It could’ve been anybody,” Edwards said.
Added Schweizer: “I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often, considering the ages of the golfers, and all the heat we’ve had this summer. Having that kit handy increased Larry’s survival chances by 40 percent.”
Mystery of the Missing Jacket
McHugh is still wondering what happened to his favorite jacket that was cut off his torso that day.
“That was the only time I laid down on the job,” he kidded.