Survival story of a cardiac arrest victim on the golf course

When a weekend golfer lives in an area that gets blasted by winter’s furious snowstorms and seemingly endless stretches of sub-freezing weather, playing a round with a bunch of buddies on a gorgeous course on a warm, sunny day is something to celebrate. But when hitting the ball off the 15th tee is immediately followed by collapsing lifelessly onto the turf and quickly turning purple, it’s not a pretty picture.

Bill Kushubar was just an average, 54-year-old guy who enjoyed an occasional game of golf in Harrisburg, PA when his life was unexpectedly on the line in 2009. Other than being moderately overweight, he never felt he was seriously at risk for sudden cardiac arrest. No doubt, he would not have thought he was in good enough shape to participate in something demanding like a marathon or a speed skating competition. But golf? It seems so safe, relaxing and laid back

As soon as Kushubar hit the ball approaching the 15th hole, he hit the ground. At first, his playing partners thought he was being dramatic in reaction to a bad shot. As Kushabar started to turn purple, his friends realized the seriousness of the situation. He was unconscious and not breathing. One friend, Charlie Sourbeer, took command and literally saved Kushabar’s life.

As Sourbeer told another friend to call 911, he started to apply CPR to Kushabar. Although it had been 15 years since he received CPR training at work, he didn’t skip a beat. He worked on Kushabar for about 20 minutes and was getting quite exhausted himself when a passing jogger stopped to offer assistance. He was happy to pitch in and take over for Sourbeer. Fortunately for Kushabar, that stranger turned out to be a personal trainer who also knew CPR and more advanced lifesaving procedures.

Sourbeer was the first person in a chain of many that allowed Kushabar to live. One whose efforts might have meant the difference between barely surviving (with significant brain damage) and surviving without any ill effects was Kushabar’s wife, a nurse. She insisted that her husband’s body temperature be lowered so that his brain would be protected. In the absence of cooling blankets, ice bags were placed under his armpits and in the groin area.

An ambulance had been dispatched many minutes earlier, but it got bogged down on the soggy fairways of the golf course. Some quick thinking led to the emergency medical team reaching the victim by hopping on a flat bed landscaping truck. After multiple zaps by a defibrillator and other lifesaving intervention, Kushabar was stabilized enough to be transported to the Osteopathic Hospital of Harrisburg and then on to Harrisburg Hospital. His final destination was the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, where extensive tests could not show any significant heart blockages and the directive to lose some weight was issued.

Although Kushabar does not recall the events of his attack and the days immediately following it, his friends and family have filled him in. He jokes about needing numerous applications of the defibrillator and being given the Last Rites twice. He is taking positive steps to improve his health by eliminating many fatty foods from his diet, resulting in a 30-pound weight loss. He no longer lets things that are out of his control upset him. This survivor of sudden cardiac arrest is grateful for his second chance and maintains a wonderful sense of humor.


Pearl Salkin