After tragedy at Memphis golf course, family hopes more defibrillators can make a difference

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Is your golf course ready to save your life? We have discovered that some are not equipped with life saving devices, and a local family wants to change that.

Robin Howell says her husband Billy Howell kissed her goodbye on the morning of July 5 and left to meet her sons at Stonebridge Golf Course off Davies Plantation Road. It was the first time in years that he had walked on a green.

“When we got there he was in a good mood,” Billy’s stepson Bubba Sandefer said.

Besides a complaint of indigestion, Sandefer said nothing that morning, raised a red flag – until the fifth hole.

“I turned to walk, and when I did, he said, ‘Wait boys.’ And by the time I turned around he was falling, ”Sandefer said.

Billy collapsed. He had suffered cardiac arrest, which means his heart malfunctioned and stopped beating unexpectedly.

“The first thing I said was, ‘Call 911!’ Sandefer said. “I took CPR when I was a kid and started CPR. “

The 911 operator then asked a question.

“Do you have a defibrillator? I said, “Ma’am, we are in the middle of the golf course,” Sandefer said.

He sent his brother to the clubhouse to see if they had one.

“He got there, and they said they didn’t have one,” he said.

Paramedics finally arrived, but it was too late. Billy didn’t succeed. He was only 68 years old.

“It was a blink of an eye, and he was gone. He left that morning and never came home again. That’s what’s difficult, ”said Robin Howell.

Billy had heart trouble for years.

“Heart disease is still the number one killer in this country. Both men and women, ”said Dr Claro Diaz, who was Billy’s cardiologist. “Once someone stops you know we’re behind the 8-ball from the start. We are fighting an uphill battle. “

Diaz said that is why the 911 operator asked for a automated external defibrillator. It is a portable device that speaks to the user through step-by-step instructions and sends an electric shock to the heart in an attempt to restore a normal rhythm.

“They really save lives, yeah,” Diaz said.

(photo submitted) Billy Howell (top right) collapsed and died on Stonebridge Golf Course. His family would like to see more courses equipped with life-saving defibrillators.

Stonebridge management did not accept an interview, but told WREG over the phone that they were considering procuring a defibrillator but no decision has been made.

To be clear, there is no law requiring a golf course to have one. WREG found that other private and public courses made the investment, including the City of Memphis courses.

Golf and park maintenance administrator Mickey Barker said they are working to get an AED on all of their courses. He showed us the one from Links at Galloway and the photo above.

In 2019, he said a golfer lost his pulse on the 7th green. Staff used the AED and the man survived.

“It was a really good story,” Barker said. “He’s back to golf. He’s been doing a lot of rehabilitation since then, but he’s doing very well.

The Red Cross reports that the average response time for first responders is 8 to 12 minutes, but some golf courses are great. Depending on where the emergency has occurred, paramedics may take time to find their way around.

“We have to think about this. For every minute that the AED is not there and you are not doing CPR, the victim loses ten percent chance of survival for every minute, ”said JC Graves, who offers AED training at the Cross. Local red.

The most recent data we found that about one percent of cardiac arrests in the last year occurred in a recreation area such as a golf course. This equates to approximately 3,500 cardiac arrests.

“I really believe he passed before he hit the ground. I don’t think it would have helped him, ”Sandefer said. “But what about the next person that’s over there?” It might help.

Billy’s family is currently working on a plan to raise money to get more defibrillators from Mid-South golf courses, which can cost around $ 1,500 to $ 2,500 plus training. They are still in the early stages of planning, but are looking to host a golf tournament to raise funds and raise awareness.

“If something like that happened, at least you could use it to try and save a life,” Robin Howell said.

Billy was a grandfather. He was funny, kind and selfless. He donated what he could to organizations like St Jude.

“He was doing this before we were together. Every photo St. Jude ever sent her is out there in the desk drawer, ”said Robin Howell.

The family now rely on memories to give them strength as they work to prevent other families from having to say such sudden goodbyes.

If you would like to help the family in their efforts, you can contact Sandefer at [email protected]

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