What Would You Do With 21 ‘Extra’ Years?

Death. It’s a funny thing. Scary, elusive, inevitable. Rodney Koser found a way to beat it. 21 years ago this July, Rodney and his wife Joan were square dancing in East Side Park following the Prairie Pioneer Days parade in Morris. Rodney began having some discomfort in his chest. This was not a new thing for Rodney. What happened next, however, was completely new to Rodney. He collapsed. Dead. Not moving. Not breathing. No pulse. This is where the story gets interesting.  Bystanders took action. They called 911.  They started CPR. When the ambulance arrived they grabbed their AED and attached the pads to Rodney’s chest. The shocked Rodney’s heart several times. They saved Rodney’s life.  Upon arriving at the hospital Rodney was breathing again and he regained consciousness. This was his second chance at life – and he took advantage of it.

Over the years Rodney’s heart continued to be a nuisance at best (he had over 16 stents placed), but he didn’t let that stop him.  As a survivor and as advocates, he and Joan became game changers when it came to AEDs and bystander CPR education.  In 2003, Rodney and Joan attended the NCED conference in Washington D.C. along with several other local representatives where Rodney represented 1 of the 42 people that experience sudden cardiac arrest each hour across the United States. Back then it was difficult to find 42 people that had survived SCA. In 1993 when Rodney had his SCA, it was almost unheard of. People didn’t survive that type of thing and go on to resume their normal life. But Rodney did. Rodney had 21 more years to spend with his wife Joan. He had 21 years to enjoy farming the land – and enjoy it he did. He had 21 more years to tell everyone how a few brave people did CPR and used that little machine that shocked his heart in the park on July 11,1993.  Those people saved his life. Those people gave Rodney 21 more years.

Rodney passed away this past Wednesday. This time, he couldn’t beat it like he did in the park 21 years ago. We’ve lost a great man, a good friend, a loving husband and father, an eager and passionate soul. When I visited with Rodney Wednesday morning he told me with youthful excitement and a glimmer in his eye of the big plans for his ’21st’ birthday party coming up this summer – his re-birthday. The 20 re-birthdays he never would have had.
If Rodney were here today, I imagine his advice would be something like this: Live life. Never take today for granted, because you never know when it might be your last.  He’d also probably tell us all to go out and learn CPR and how to use an AED. And he’d probably tell you that we should have AEDs everywhere – every business, every workplace, every church, every school, every public building, every squad car, every street corner.  And, oh yeah, he’d probably tell you to check the corn in the bins, and turn on the dryers if you need to.
Rodney’s life and his 21 ‘extra’ years are living proof that when people do CPR and use an AED, they save lives. As we’ve done for the past 21 years, we will continue to tell Rodney’s story and make sure that everyone possible has the training to be able to do what those bystanders did for Rodney so many years ago. They gave him years. They gave him time. His time has now come to an end and he will be greatly missed. His story will be told, his legacy will live on, and we will celebrate his life and the 21 years he wouldn’t have had. Rest in peace, Rodney.