Avera Medical Minute: AED saves Pierre man's life at soccer tournament

PIERRE, S.D. - AEDs are in various businesses and schools across South Dakota to help save someone's life if they go into cardiac arrest. It's a battery-operated machine that provides a shock to someone's heart if it detects the organ needs it.

Binyiam Belayneh has played soccer since he was a kid. He was playing in an adult coed tournament in Rapid City when he switched out with another teammate after 10 minutes of play.

"I was sitting on the bench, and my head was tilted like this," he said. "And then the players were telling the referee, he doesn't look okay."

That's when Dr. Robert Allison was called over. He was coaching a couple of soccer fields away.

"As we were protecting his airway, all of a sudden his pulse went," Dr. Allison said.

He started CPR and called for an AED.

"An AED is just a fancy battery, but it's a smart battery computer and they're really easy to use," Dr. Allison said. "Once you put on the patches and hit the button and then step away, the machine tells you if you need to provide a shock. So anyone can do this even if you've not been trained."

He said if you're scared to use one, don't be.

"If you don't use it, they're not going to make it, and it won't give you a shock if you don't need it," Dr. Allison said.

He was scared for a different reason.

"I think one of the scariest things is because it was one of my friends," he said.

Dr. Allison first saw Biny in 2015 at Avera in Pierre. They bonded over their love of soccer.

"You would think, just because you're active, just because you eat healthy, those sort of things don't happen. But it does happen," Belayneh said.

Biny had his heart attack on January 19th, 2019.

"I do not remember anything, even the day before. Everything I had done a day before, I don't have any memory of it. It's all just blurred out," he said.

He was taken to the hospital on Saturday and woke up on Tuesday. He was there for a total of eight days when doctors put in a stent to open a blocked artery. They also installed a defibrillator on his side, and he's been doing cardiac rehab in Pierre ever since.

"Biny's a fit, young man, really athletic and most likely, the story is that he had a break in a blood vessel, a cholesterol plaque, that the body tried to close off right away and heal," Dr. Allison said. "Well, it healed it so well that it blocked off 98% of the blood flow to the main artery feeding both parts of his heart."

So Biny is lucky an AED was available at the time.

"My biggest fear was what if Biny would have gone to the hotel across the way? What if he just played hard and went to take a break with his family or taken a nap? He might not have woken up, and we might have had a totally different story," Dr. Allison said.

"It happened in the facility that had medical kits like AED. It happened at the right time and at the right place," Belayneh said.

Biny is back to work full-time with the South Dakota Department of Transportation as a civil engineer. But he still has to check with his doctor if he can ever play soccer again. He does plan to continue coaching no matter what though.