PBS documentary on human heart features Geneseo student

On Saturday, Jan. 27, film crews from PBS interviewed Geneseo students and officials to film a segment for a three-part medical special on the human heart, set to air this November. The main focus for the nationally-televised piece is the story of sophomore Kevin Oill.

At approximately 10 p.m. on Jan. 16, 2006, Oill was visiting friends in the Saratoga Townhouses when he suddenly went into cardiac arrest. Sophomore Matthew Carr and junior Charlie Bueche, good friends of Oill, were also at the townhouse that night. Both are members of Geneseo First Response (GFR), and although they were off-duty at the time, they rushed to help Oill. Their knowledge of CPR enabled them to get enough oxygen to Oill's brain until on-duty GFR personnel and an ambulance arrived on the scene. Close to death, Oill was immediately transported to Rochester's Strong Memorial Hospital for emergency treatment.

Upon arrival at Strong, doctors deliberately put Oill into a coma in order to reduce the amount of blood his brain would need to function. This helped prevent brain damage. One side-effect of the painkillers and drugs was the destruction of Oill's short term memory. "When I woke up on Jan. 23, my first reaction was utter disbelief. The last thing that I remembered was New Year's Day; to be told that it was almost a month later, that my birthday had passed, and my heart had stopped… it was impossible to believe." He had spent the week, including his Jan. 20 birthday, in a chemically-indued coma at Strong with his parents, Joseph and Lynn Oill, at his bedside.

Oill suffers from a condition called Long QT Syndrome (LQTS), a neurological cardiac disorder which usually results in sudden death through ventricular arrhythmias. LQTS is one of several sudden arrhythmia death syndromes (SADS), which kill very quickly, often without warning and with no discrimination of age, physical fitness or gender. LQTS is passed genetically through the mother's side of the family. Oill's mother has it, and so do his two younger brothers. As his condition was caught and treated, he was diagnosed before it was too late. Now, he and most of his family take medication to regulate their heartbeats, preventing ventricular arrhythmias.

Additionally, Oill was surgically implanted with a pacemaker-defibrillator, which will keep his brain stable should he suffer another cardiac event.

All of this sparked interest in the producers of the PBS human heart medical report. "I was told that the doctors at Strong [Memorial] recommended me for this TV thing because there are very few people walking around who have gone through something like this and survived," Oill said. Producers and film crews visited Oill at his Mount Sinai home on Long Island this fall, and visited again just last week at Oill's suite in Allegany Hall. Oill was bemused by the whole affair. "They took like thirty shots of me hugging my parents when I was at home. It was kind of bizarre." Charlie Bueche, Jonathan Berardi and Matthew Carr, the GFR members and close friends who saved Oill's life that night, were also interviewed.

Oill remains in awe of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding that January night. "All I know is that if my [Sigma Alpha Mu] brothers hadn't been there with me, I would've died. Whether that was chance or fate, I don't know."