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First responders help save teenage boy’s life after he collapses at gym

 

Paramedics Boyd Hansbro and Gabriel Morales had just finished transporting a patient to the hospital on July 7, 2023, when a dispatch call came in just after 1:30 p.m. in Grand Prairie, a suburb in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The call noted that a person had collapsed at the gym.

“Ninety-nine times out of 100, it’s someone who has overexerted themselves because they’re lifting and they get up and pass out,” Boyd said. “So it doesn’t raise any alarms for us.”

The emergency was outside Boyd’s service area. But as Boyd and Gabriel, who work for the Grand Prairie Fire Department, were on the closest ambulance, they headed to the 24 Hour Fitness where the person had collapsed.

As the ambulance was en route, Boyd received updated notes from dispatch that the person was not breathing. Boyd knew immediately the situation was serious.

Left to right: Firefighter/EMTP Gabriel Morales, LT/EMTP Chris Sieg, Jaylen Floyd, Firefighter/EMTP Boyd Hansbro, Firefighter/EMTP Brent Flath, and Firefighter/EMTP Thomas Haire

A fire truck had arrived on scene first. The truck’s crew of first responders  – Chris Sieg, Pat Schuster, Thomas Haire and Brent Flath – had started CPR on the 17-year-old, Black patient named Jaylen Floyd. The first responders also shocked him two times with a defibrillator. They also applied an airway device to open his airway and administered epinephrine. Boyd and Gabriel soon arrived at the scene. Boyd served as the lead paramedic.

“It turns into business,” Boyd said of the EMS response.  “We know what we need to do. And that is regardless of the surroundings really. We know what we need to do to take care of whatever we’re dealing with the best way that we know possible.”

As part of Boyd’s role, he gathered as much information about what happened from  Jaylen’s friends who told him that it appeared Jaylen had been resting on the curl bar. However, a gym member who was nearby looked at Jaylen and realized he wasn’t breathing.

Boyd learned the gym member had started CPR before first responders even arrived. Boyd said this lay responder was the unsung hero in the situation.

“Apparently they were doing a fantastic job,” Boyd said of the lay responder. “That person probably did more than anyone to make sure the outcome was good for Jaylen.”

The team of first responders were at the scene for about 15 minutes before Jaylen was transported by ambulance to Medical Center of Arlington. Boyd said they also had to shock Jaylen while in the ambulance.

About a minute away from the hospital, Boyd was providing bag-valve-mask ventilations to Jaylen when there was a moment that surprised him.

“He sucked that bag completely out of air,” Boyd recalled. “I was really hopeful at that point. I was like ‘Man, he is going to make it.’

Boyd said he had never had a patient completely take one big breath like Jaylen did while providing bag-valve-mask ventilation.

Jaylen was first hospitalized at Medical Center of Arlington for a couple of hours, and then was transported to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth where he spent five days in the ICU.

Tracy Floyd, Jaylen’s mother, said doctors diagnosed Jaylen with long QT syndrome, which caused the cardiac arrest. He now has a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator and takes betablockers. She said he is healthy and doing well.

“He is doing absolutely amazing,” she said. “We were truly blessed.”

Jaylen is a high school senior who played the alto saxophone in the band at Timberview High School. He graduates on May 24, 2024, and will attend college at Oklahoma State University.

“He really is a good kid,” Tracy said. “He has given me no problems throughout his tenure of being a teenager, and so I’m very grateful for that for sure.”

Left to right: Firefighter/EMTP Gabriel Morales, LT/EMTP Chris Sieg, Demetra Hight (sister), Tracy Floyd (mom), Jaylen Floyd, Roderick Floyd (dad), Firefighter/EMTP Boyd Hansbro, Firefighter/EMTP Brent Flath, Firefighter/EMTP Thomas Haire

Jaylen, Tracy and the rest of their family met with the team of first responders who treated him. Hugs were exchanged. Tracy said she is forever grateful to the EMS professionals who responded with urgency and compassion.

“You cannot replace a human’s life,” she said. “There are not enough thanks you, hugs, money. It’s priceless. I’m extremely grateful. I have the utmost gratitude for the care they provided and for the selflessness of the first team to go ahead and respond after finishing up a call and it wasn’t even their call to go to. So my hats off to their work they exhibited before the second team arrived and came.”

Tracy is also thankful for the lay responder – a stranger – who immediately started performing CPR on Jaylen. She said the lay responder’s actions demonstrate the importance of the public learning CPR especially as research has shown that Black children are less likely to receive lay responder CPR.

In a study published in 2022 in the American Heart Association’s flagship journal, Circulation, the findings showed that Black and Hispanic children are less likely to receive bystander CPR than white children during an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

“The message I would have would be to please learn the basics for starting chest compressions or using an AED. He is a Black kid. You’re not likely to respond to a Black child or Black person unfortunately….. he is a kid who has a full life ahead so the importance of a lay responder just to learn and just to do compressions, it can save a life. It literally saved a life. It saved my son’s life,” Tracy said.

Each year, EMS Week is celebrated in the United States. This year’s EMS Week marks the 50th anniversary that the tradition has been held. EMS Week honors the dedication and commitment of EMS professionals. It represents a time to express gratitude for the lifesaving work that EMS workers do.

Boyd said he is glad Jaylen is doing well and he’ll remember this EMS Week how he and his fellow first responders worked to save his life. Boyd also said he encourages the public to learn CPR and not to rely on learning CPR from the movies where the technique is usually not shown properly because the rescuer is not pushing down hard enough.

“Learn the basics of just chest compressions and save a life,” Boyd said.

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School Nurse Performs CPR to Help Save Student’s Life

Linette Castro, a school nurse at Winfield Scott School No. 2 in New Jersey, had only been working at the campus for a few months when a student suffered cardiac arrest.

School nurse Linette Castro

During the morning of Oct. 24, 2023, Linette was in her office when the school’s security guard told her that her help was needed. As Linette walked out of the office, she saw principal Shante Rorie running towards her, yelling the name of the boy who needed medical attention. Linette immediately knew who the student was because she was aware that he had an underlying heart condition and wore a pacemaker.

Linette and Shante ran to the hallway where the boy was laying on his back on the floor. Linette rushed over to him. She checked for a pulse and also put her stethoscope on his chest. She didn’t hear a heartbeat. The boy’s pacemaker had failed.

Shante called the front office staff and asked them to call 911. Linette started CPR as  Shante went to go get the AED.

As Linette performed CPR, it dawned on her that she was the only nurse on site. She had spent most of her nursing career in a high-adrenaline neonatal ICU with a team of healthcare providers. But now she found herself responding to an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in a school environment where there was no back-up nurse.

“I knew in that moment – I had to stay calm,” Linette said. “How was everyone around me going to stay calm especially when everyone has not been in a life-or-death moment like this?”

Shante watched as Linette administered CPR to the student, who had turned blue. His mouth was open, and his eyes had rolled back into his head.

“She is working, and she is so focused,” Shante recalled. “She is working and not stopping.”

As Linette peeled off the stickers on the AED pads, the situation seemed surreal to her.

“I can’t believe I’m having  to do this and use an AED on a child,” she recalled thinking.

Linette said the AED advised a shock and after the shock was delivered, she resumed CPR. The fire department  soon arrived and transported the student to the hospital. Shante said a hospital official called her twice to commend Linette’s lifesaving actions.

“The head of the cardiac department, he called me the first day and said, ‘Listen I want you to know what she did was extraordinary because she saved him, “ Shante said. “He called me the next day because he was still awestruck.”

The student survived and recovered. When the boy returned to the school, it was a bittersweet moment for both Shante and Linette who each gave him a hug.

School nurse Linette Castro holding the AHA Heartsaver Hero Award and principal Shante Rorie

“Her and I are pretty emotional people, so we got choked up,” Linette said.

Before Linette joined the staff at Winfield Scott School No. 2, Shante said there was another school nurse who had been there for many years. Then, Linette was transferred to the campus, which Shante believes happened for a reason.

“This amazing person was able to stay calm and get all the tools she needed without even a moment of hesitation,” Shante said of Linette. “He was gone. He was no longer with us. And she saved his life. And we talk about the fact she wasn’t even our nurse, and she came to our building. And we think this was her purpose. She is living her purpose.”

Shante described Linette as a thorough, conscientious and kind person who goes above and beyond what her responsibilities are to make sure the health needs of students and staff are met.

“She has really transformed how medical care happens in our school,” Shante said. “We used to have tremendous, long lines for students coming in. She has streamlined that. She is able to have the kids come in, give them what they need, quickly assess  and keep the kids who really need attention.”

Veronica Valentine Frazier, Linette’s friend and peer, and Linette

In recognition of her lifesaving work, Veronica Valentine Frazier, Linette’s friend and peer, nominated her for the AHA Heartsaver Hero award.

“The way Linette reacted to the event and how she was able to perform CPR – she was the only one capable,” Veronica said. “She worked with the student for six minutes alone. That is extremely difficult. So the way she was quick to respond – she knew exactly what to do. She was able to delegate and try to explain to staff exactly what she needed.”

Linette received her Basic Life Support completion card from AHA. She said the steps for carrying out CPR that she received in AHA training crossed her mind when she responded to the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

“Of course I remember the training – the didactic part of it, “ she said. “But mostly it was the actual maneuvers – I think the quality of your compressions – I knew I was giving good compressions. I never doubted that I was giving this child good compressions.”

Linette’s response to the cardiac emergency compelled Shante to become trained in CPR. It also motivated Veronica to establish a CPR training business that trains school district staff.

Linette said her message to other nurses about CPR is you never know when you’ll need to use the lifesaving skill.

“It’s an invaluable tool that you never know you’re going to need, whether it’s in the school setting or the supermarket,” Linette said. “Don’t take it for granted.”

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Wife Performs CPR on Husband, Plays Vital Role In His Survival

By Gina Mayfield

On a typical fall Saturday in October of 2021, Blake and Ashley Burns settled into a routine not unfamiliar to many who call Alabama home. In advance of the University of Alabama football game, Ashley spent the first part of the day in the kitchen and, just around kickoff, offered her husband a slice of freshly baked tres leche cake. Blake decided to hold off due to what he believed was indigestion, then sat down in his favorite chair. Just as he pulled back the lever of his recliner, he became unresponsive.

On instinct, she jumped up and tried to get Blake out of his recliner. The AHA recommends providing chest compressions on a firm, flat surface when possible. Though Ashley was unable get Blake to the floor she started doing chest compressions right then and there. “I could see the color drain from his face. There was no oxygen. I asked him if he could hear me and got no response,” she says. Ashley kept doing chest compressions, then suddenly had a realization: Oh my goodness, I’m here by myself, I’m going to have to call 911 — something she later realized she should have done first.

Ashley & Blake Burns

She gave Blake two quick breaths, grabbed her phone, called 911 on speaker and swung open the front door for the EMTs. “Luckily, we live about half a mile from the fire department. I could hear them turn on the sirens on their way to our house,” Ashley says. Before she knew it, she had a house full of EMTs. Chest compressions commenced and a defibrilator was used. “When they shocked him, they couldn’t get a response, so they ended up having to shock him three times,” Ashley says. Still nothing.

“I got really nervous. I thought, This is not good. They’ve shocked him three times and he’s still not responding. That’s when they told me they were going to have to intubate him and start an IV,” Ashley says. Not long after, they loaded Blake into the ambulance and rushed him to the hospital. Ashley and Blake’s brother met them there.

“I’m going to be honest, we were actually scared to go in. I thought they were going to come out and say he didn’t make it,” Ashley says. Instead, a fireman found them and shared some good news: Blake was awake! Ashley went to see him and found a very active emergency room, as they prepared to put in a stent. Eventually, the doctor on duty had a special word for Ashley. “He told me over and over and over that had I not been there and done CPR when I did, Blake would not be alive,” she says.

After a stay in the hospital, Blake and Ashley returned home to a new normal. Blake quit smoking, eats better and checks his blood pressure twice a day. Both Ashley and Blake completed their CPR training.

Looking back, the warning signs were all there. “I will tell you this, he had every symptom of a heart attack a person can have in the days and weeks prior to this event,” Ashley says. There was jaw pain dismissed by an ENT as a potential sinus infection or possibly arthritis. Then the day before the heart attack Blake suddenly broke out in a sweat at a red light, then developed back pain between his shoulder blades later that night. The next morning came that indigestion, then the heart attack that led to cardiac arrest and Ashley’s life-saving CPR.

“Blake came back around though, he made it through, so that was good,” Ashley says. “I never thought I would have to do something like that at home, or on a family member. But you know, it goes to show, it happens.”

The AHA is committed to transforming a nation of bystanders into a Nation of Lifesavers. Join the movement that can make a difference in the life of someone’s partner, parent, friend, or family.

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Woman Saves Best Friend Who Suffered Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest

By Gina Mayfield

Julie (left) and Rhonda (right)

On a warm September evening, Rhonda Kuehn arrived at the home of her longtime friend, Julie, for a cookout to celebrate her birthday. Shortly after arriving, Rhonda realized the 46-year-old birthday girl was noticeably absent and asked about her. Julie’s husband casually mentioned Julie felt overheated and had started to experience some chest pains, and that she had stepped away to rest privately.

“I went and fixed my dinner plate, and then I said to myself, ‘Well, no, I’m going to go check on her,’” Rhonda says. She found Julie with a cold towel wrapped around her neck and a fan blowing on her. “I asked her what her symptoms were, input them into the WebMD app on my phone and the results came back as a high possibility of a heart attack,” Rhonda says. “So we got in the car and started heading toward the hospital.”  The American Heart Association recommends calling 911 for a suspected heart attack and does not recommend driving to the hospital.

On the way there, Rhonda tried to make lighthearted conversation, but it quickly became clear that Julie was in a lot of pain. “She had her phone in her hand and just dropped it, then she was leaning over, and I just shook her a little bit,” Rhonda says. “I said, ‘Jules, Julie…‘ No response whatsoever. Then I missed the turn to the hospital.”

Rhonda turned another corner into a residential area and called 911. The dispatcher told her she needed to start chest compressions right away and asked if she could get Julie out of the car, which wasn’t possible. “Then Julie’s lips started turning blue and she wasn’t breathing,” Rhonda says. “The dispatcher told me to go over and lay Julie’s seat as far back as I could, straddle her lap and start doing compressions. The dispatcher talked me through it, she kept encouraging me.”  Chest compressions should be done on a firm, flat surface when possible.

After missing that turn, Rhonda didn’t know what street she was on, so the dispatcher struggled to pinpoint a location for first responders. “I’m facing the street as I’m doing compressions, and I see the ambulance pass us by, then the fire engine,” Rhonda says. At that point she starts doing compressions with one hand and honking the horn with the other in an effort to get the attention of local residents. No help came.

Finally, a police officer spotted them and ran over to help get Julie on the ground and take over compressions. By this point, onlookers had started appearing on their front lawns and Rhon

Rhonda, first officer on the scene Cory Contreras, and Julie (left to right)

da asked them to flag down the ambulance at the street. EMTs arrived, used a defibrillator, and rushed Julie to the hospital where she spent days in intensive care and left with a device implanted in her heart that can be monitored. “They did all kinds of testing and found no reason for her to have a cardiac arrest,” Rhonda says. “It’s still a mystery.”

What’s not a mystery, is that Rhonda’s actions that day saved her friend’s life. Many years earlier she had taken a CPR class at a local community college in their hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, and that experience came back to her right when she needed it.

In the days, weeks and months that followed, the thanks came pouring in from Julie and her friends and family, including a card from Julie’s sister. “She sent me a picture of her siblings and nieces and nephews and wrote, This is the family that thanks you for saving our sister,” says Rhonda, who’s quick to point out the others who helped too, including that 911 dispatcher. “She talked me through it and kept me from getting emotional,” Rhonda says. “Julie has thanked me over and over, but there’s appreciation that needs to go all the way around. It’s definitely not a one-person thing. It’s just a big team that made it possible.”

Julie and Rhonda got to meet that dispatcher in person, along with the local fire and rescue team, as well as the police officer who was first on the scene. Then one day a letter came in the mail from the Lincoln, Nebraska, police department. “When I first got it, I thought, Oh my goodness, what did I do?,” Rhonda says. But instead of a citation, it was an invitation – to a ceremony honoring citizens who had saved a life.

The AHA is committed to transforming a nation of bystanders into a Nation of Lifesavers. Join the movement that can make a difference in the life of someone’s partner, parent, friend, or family.

 

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Family Tragedy Inspires Woman to Become CPR Instructor

Kathy and her sister the day before Genny passed.

By Gina Mayfield

On Saturday, July 3, 2021, Kathy Simpson and her sister, Genny, spent the day celebrating the upcoming Fourth of July holiday with family and friends. The next evening, the two sisters decided to spend a quiet evening in their pajamas, snacking on leftovers from the party and watching Netflix at Genny’s apartment. “There was no indication that anything was wrong. Absolutely nothing,” Kathy says.

Just as the movie ended, Genny got up and walked down the hall to the bathroom. Kathy heard a loud crash. “The next thing I knew I was running so fast and saying, ‘Are you okay?’” Kathy says. She was met with silence. “I think I jumped over the couch. I just got this really weird feeling that something tragic had happened,’” she says. “I opened the bathroom door and Genny’s on the floor. She was unresponsive.”

Kathy frantically banged on neighbors’ doors while screaming for help. “Nobody came. Nobody opened their door. I knew time was crucial,” she says, having remembered a CPR class she had taken decades earlier. She called 911 and started chest compressions. EMTs finally arrived at her door after what “seemed like forever.”

Paramedics told Kathy she had done a great job, then worked on Genny for 20 – 30 minutes, before transporting her to the hospital, where Kathy gathered with the same family she had been celebrating with just the day before. Hours later, hospital staff asked them to step into a small room where a doctor delivered the devastating news that Genny had not survived cardiac arrest. “I’m sure I was in shock, traumatized, everything you can think of,” Kathy says.

She grieved for more than a year then decided she had to do something to honor Genny, who was a certified nursing assistant and a veteran who lost her life on the Fourth of July. Right before her sister’s death, Kathy had relocated to the Atlanta area to be closer to family and grow a business chauffeuring her 65-year-old Rolls-Royce, which was built for Buckingham Palace. “But when my sister died, that fell behind, it was no longer a priority. Saving lives became my mission,” Kathy says.

She found the strength to walk into an American Heart Association Training Center in Acworth, Georgia, which teaches on-site CPR classes. At first, she thought about just taking a class, then decided to inquire about becoming an instructor. She met with the manager, submitted her resume, eventually earned the Basic Life Support Instructor Certification and joined the training center staff in October 2023 as a BLS faculty member.

From there, she did a deep dive into CPR instruction and realized there were almost 4,000 CPR instructors currently employed in the United States. “But when I got down to Blacks, and I realized only 7.3% of instructors were Black or African American, my mouth just fell. I thought that was totally impossible. There’s no way this number could be that low. That was so disappointing,” Kathy says.

She went on to learn that Black or Hispanic adults who experience a witnessed cardiac arrest outside the hospital are substantially less likely than their white peers to receive lifesaving care from a bystander. “That crushed me. That changed everything,” she says.

Kathy made up her mind to reach people right where they were – at home during the pandemic. Realizing that hundreds of thousands of people lived in apartment complexes, she started there. Management teams were more than happy to support her efforts to teach CPR.

Kathy ordered everything she needed – manikins, masks, an AED, DVDs, training books – and began to volunteer her time to provide free Hands-Only CPR demonstrations right there in the complex’s community center. Everyone can afford free and they knew where to go, so neighbors of all ages, from kids to adults, were invited to practice calling 911 and apply 30 compressions on manikins. Kathy even stocked a Life Savers candy dispenser so participants could enjoy a sweet treat once they completed their training. “They didn’t have to leave the comfort of their own home. I came to them,” Kathy says.

Today, she’s teaching and volunteering her time at the seemingly endless number of apartments around Kennesaw State University. “I do this in honor of my sister,” she says, noting she still carries Genny’s photo in her instructor binder as a reminder of the importance of learning CPR.

And so, the crusade continues. “My goals are to continue teaching at the RC Health Services, continue the Hands-Only CPR demonstrations in the community and train people of color to become a CPR instructor,” Kathy says. “Imagine one apartment building. Just think of how many of those there are all over the United States. If we can get out there and offer Hands-Only demonstrations and BLS/CPR training that will be beneficial in a life-saving event for the entire community, we can give all people an opportunity to do something instead of nothing.”

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Two Healthcare Professionals Help Save their Sunday School Teacher’s Life After He Suffered Cardiac Arrest

By Erikah Woodworth

Bill Wehlage was in the middle of teaching his Sunday school lesson at Grace Harbor Baptist Church in Grove, Okla. in mid-March 2023 when he suffered cardiac arrest.

Just as his class began to dive into discussion questions, Bill headed to the back of the room to take a seat when suddenly he collapsed in his chair.

“The room just started spinning,” Bill recalled. “And I went black.”

Concerned, Joey Gregory, a student in the class who is also a nurse practitioner at Grove Integris Hospital, sprung up from his seat. Joey has been a member of the church since 2017 and says that Bill always gave them a hard time about falling asleep during class, but this time everyone realized that this wasn’t another one of his jokes.

With no underlying heart conditions at 57, his friends and family never expected that Bill would be in a fight for his life right before their very eyes, especially not his better half, Karen Wehlage, who rushed to his side when she felt that something just wasn’t right.

Left to right – Bill Wehlage, Joey Gregory, Macy Dean, Josh West (State Representative for Oklahoma) and Pastor Marty Hughes

Church officials already had an emergency response plan in place and began to take immediate action. While one member called 911, another ran to the church gymnasium to notify Macy Dean, a medic at Grove Integris Hospital who was on the church’s Rapid Response Team.

Joey and Macy live through moments like these every day, but this one was personal. According to Joey, Bill is “someone who would give you the shirt off his back and help anyone,” and seeing a longtime friend in this condition was something he didn’t think he would have to face in his 20 years of being a healthcare professional.

“You feel like someone punches you in the stomach,” Joey said. “You can’t catch your breath.”

Joey said but something just clicks, and you get through that emotion.

Bill’s breathing continued to get worse. Seconds later, he was no longer responsive and without a pulse.

Macy took the lead with compressions and Joey applied a bag-mask for ventilation while Grove Fire Department who happened to be in the neighborhood over was on the way with an automated external defibrillator (AED). Bill was in ventricular fibrillation, a dangerous and abnormal heart rhythm that resulted from disordered electrical activity of the heart. Every second mattered.

The air within the classroom was thick and full of prayers from close family, friends and loved ones as they watched the first responders try to resuscitate Bill.

“I walked away because I didn’t want to watch it,” Karen said.

In less than five minutes, Grove Fire Department arrived with an AED allowing Joey and Macy to work alongside the very same healthcare providers that they know and trust to save Bill. A shock was applied as advised by the AED and after five minutes of high-quality CPR, a normal heart rhythm was restored. Bill was conscious, responsive, and witty as ever.

His first words after a cardiac arrest? “Ya’ll aren’t getting out of finishing those discussion questions.”

Bill was used to putting people first so naturally, he was more interested in finishing his Sunday school class for those who desired to grow their faith, than getting to a hospital for post-cardiac arrest care. Nonetheless, to recover so quickly seconds after resuscitation was a rarity in itself.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I have never seen that in my whole career,” Joey said.

Bill was in far better condition than any other heart patient his doctors had ever seen. After being in the hospital for only two days for pacemaker implantation surgery, he was back at Sunday school a week later teaching again.

“Originally, I wasn’t even supposed to be there on that Sunday,” Joey recalled as he reflected on how everything could have ended differently that day.

After wrapping up a week of vacation with his three kids, Joey was exhausted and didn’t want to leave his bed. But as a member of the praise and worship team, Joey says he felt a sense of responsibility and decided to push his way to church Sunday morning.

That sense of responsibility helped save a life.

The Wehlage’s live further out in the country of Jay, Oklahoma and with Karen’s limited knowledge of CPR and first aid training, they are grateful that it happened not only when it did, but where it did.

“It could not have been a more perfect situation,” Macy said as she credited her faith in the reason why everything fell into place to save Bill’s life.

According to Karen, Bill never cries, but “he was constantly tearing up,” not only from the realization that they brought him back from death, but also from the thought of leaving his wife behind.

Bill hasn’t received CPR training since he retired as an Army Chaplain in 2013 and says that this experience helped him realize the importance of CPR training and staying up to date with his skills.

To continue to spread awareness in their community, the church presented AHA Heartsaver Hero Awards to Joey and Macy, alongside Oklahoma State representatives, Josh West, and pastor Marty Hughes during a  Sunday service.

“AEDs save lives. CPR saves lives. We’re living proof of it,” Joey said.

Joey and Macy received advanced and basic CPR training through the American Heart Association and are equipped with the skill, experience, and mental strength to carry out the chain of survival. Currently seven in 10 of Americans do not have the knowledge or confidence to act in the event of a cardiac arrest. As an AHA CPR Instructor for 10 years, Joey said he wants to continue to be a part of the solution and educate the community.

“If there is anything you can do to save a human life, do it,” Bill said. “And train to be your best!”

The AHA is committed to transforming a nation of bystanders into a Nation of Lifesavers. Join the movement that can make a difference in the life of someone’s partner, parent, friend, or family.

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Heart-Saving Hero, Not an Average Joe

By Gina Mayfield

On an unseasonably warm evening in rural Maryland, Joe Greco hosted a small cookout for his son Joey’s friend Alex and his dad, John. After dinner, all four guys played a little basketball in preparation for upcoming high school tryouts before the boys headed inside.

Joe and John remained outside, just standing around talking about sports and life, when John said, “You know, I’m starting to feel … .” Those were his last words before he collapsed, and Joe caught him midway down to the concrete floor of the garage.

“Initially, I thought he was having a seizure,” Joe says. “He’s breathing very heavily, his eyes are rolling back in his head and he was convulsing a little bit. Then, all of sudden, he stops breathing.” At that point, Joe ran inside where he instructed his son to call 911 and John’s son to run down the 400-foot driveway to wave in first responders.

Survivor John Holschuh & Heartsaver Joe Greco

Joe started administering CPR – chest compressions and mouth to mouth breathing. John would take a few breaths, then stop breathing again. Joe continued CPR, only stopping to clear vomit from John’s mouth.

Soon enough, Joey ran into the garage with a 911 dispatcher on the line. “She was coaching me, helping me with the timing, she was really just a nice support and comfort,” Joe says. Eventually, she asked him just to focus on chest compressions, but nothing seemed to help.

About that time a local volunteer fireman who had heard the 911 call on the scanner appeared in the garage. “He told me to keep doing what I was doing,” Joe says. About 10-15 minutes after the 911 call went out, EMTs arrived on the scene and shocked John with the defibrillator. Still, not much of a response.

“I remember holding my son’s hand, holding Alex’s hand, in my garage – the three of us saying prayers and yelling to John to fight, to work, to give him encouragement to stay with us,” Joe says. Paramedics used the defibrillator one more time and got a pulse, then quickly transported John to a local hospital with Joe and Alex right behind them.

John’s wife, Dawn, and other family members met them there. Joe returned home and got a call from Dawn around 10 p.m. to let him know that John was in a medically induced coma and they weren’t really sure what his outcome would be. If he didn’t come to within the next three days, they would have some difficult decisions to make.

The next morning, Joe got another phone call. On the other end of the line was Dawn, who said, “There’s someone here who wants to talk to you … .” It was John. The first thing he said was, “Did the old guys beat the young guys in basketball?” He had fought through that coma with his sense of humor still intact.

“The crazy thing is that none of the doctors are quite sure why John had a heart attack,” Joe says. “He’s in very good shape, takes care of himself. He’s an athlete, eats well, he’s not overweight, has no previous history of heart problems. Other than a defibrillator that’s been implanted in his shoulder, they basically told John to go live his normal lifestyle.”

Looking back, Joe says John’s not the only fortunate one. “The company I work for provides first aid and CPR training every two years,” he says. “We’re just very blessed that we had the outcome that we did, because if we didn’t, I know I would have been impacted greatly. One of the things that kept going through my head the whole time was that I wasn’t going to let those two boys witness something tragic. I was giving John everything I had. It was the scariest situation I’ve ever been in my life, but without the training, it would have been worse. I can’t imagine being there, not being able to do anything and feeling helpless, not being able to offer aid to someone who obviously needed it.”

Eventually, things settled down and life got back to normal. After a few phone calls, Joe and John had an emotional reunion while they waited outside during their sons’ basketball tryouts. Both boys made the team, and before a game the coach gave Joe a signed photo of the squad during a presentation to honor his heroic efforts. Of course, he insisted on John and the boys being included too.

“If it wasn’t for that training, if it wasn’t for the teamwork between the two boys helping me, the 911 operator coaching me, the great work that the local EMS team and the doctors at the hospital did, John wouldn’t be with us, and his family would be in a much different position,” Joe says. “I’m incredibly grateful that when a friend needed help, I was able to help him.”

WATCH this story featured by American Heart Association Baltimore & Greater Maryland.

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Massachusetts 911 Dispatcher Provides Over-the-Phone CPR Instructions to Save a Life

On a quiet Sunday morning at the Regional 911 Dispatch Center in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, dispatcher Tara Jones-Nutting answered a call: “911, where’s your emergency?”

The caller, a man named Adam, didn’t know. How could he? Miles deep into a bike ride in the Berkshire woods, he and a friend, Robert, had just glanced back to check on a third buddy only to find him on the ground in full seizure. “We have a very serious emergency,” Adam told Tara, who used geocoding to send professional help. “I don’t know how to do CPR,” Adam said, “please send this ambulance quickly.”

Tara knew they were in a very rural area. “There’s not a lot of house numbers. It’s a back country road, there’s no mile markers, there’s nothing,” she says. “I can clearly remember listening to the man on the ground breathe. I’ve been an EMT since I was 18 years old, twentysomething years, and I instantly recognized the agonal respirations. I told Adam, I’m going to give you instructions on how to do CPR.”

Massachusetts requires all 911 dispatchers to be trained in CPR. Tara’s dispatch center uses the American Heart Association’s Basic Life Support and Heartsaver First Aid programs to deliver its training. And while dispatchers also have access to CPR instructions, Tara had the added benefit of having taught CPR classes.

And so it began. “Kneel by his side and put the heel of one hand in the center of his breastbone … .” After more than 70 compressions, Adam said, “We got something!” The victim began to take big gasping breaths on his own — then stopped breathing. Tara directed them to start five rounds of 30 compressions, followed by two breaths, and explained how to check for breathing — all while encouraging them.

About 14 minutes in, the local fire chief and his daughter, who’s an EMT, arrived on scene, followed by another officer, an ambulance and eventually a helicopter that flew the victim to Massachusetts General Hospital. “You guys did a good job, I’m going to disconnect,” Tara told them, not knowing if she’d ever hear the end of the story.

But later in the day, a paramedic who was in the ambulance called the dispatch center for some statistics. He happened to be an old friend of Tara’s from back in her days as an EMT. So she asked about the call, assuming the victim didn’t make it. “No, he did,” her friend told her. He wasn’t a victim, he was a survivor.

Later, Adam contacted the dispatch center to provide an update. When Tara worked up the courage to talk to him, she said, “Hi, this is Tara from Berkshire County.” He replied, “I’ll never forget your voice.”

Looking back, Tara says she’s talked to people she’s helped revive and save before, but this was different. “I wasn’t there to physically do it, so I had to use my voice and their hands as my hands to get them to do what I needed them to do. This was a whole new, different situation for me.”

She uses an analogy to explain how she approaches teaching someone CPR over the phone. “Imagine walking someone through how to tie a shoe when that person doesn’t even know what a shoe is — and you’ve got your back turned to them. So providing very, very basic, step-by-step instruction — finding the midpoint on the chest, doing the compression and making sure they’re doing it accurately.”

Rescuers Adam & Robert instructed on how to perform CPR to save a friend’s life by 911 dispatcher Tara.

Weeks after this incident the survivor hosted a luncheon for all of the first responders, including Adam, Robert and Tara. “It was just such an amazing thing to see him standing there,” Tara says. “There were a lot of tears that day.”

As it turned out, Adam had taken a single CPR class many years ago. “It’s just so important to have that base level of knowledge, just so that CPR isn’t completely foreign to you when you need it,” Tara says. “I stand firm in the fact that I did nothing that day, those two gentlemen that were with him are the heroes at this call, because if they weren’t willing to do what they did, he would not be here.”

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American Heart Association Workforce Training Helps Man Save A Life

By Gina Mayfield

After a cornhole tournament late one Thursday night, Rob Schulte drove home along a deserted stretch of Route 16 in Macoupin County, Illinois. “I’m going down the road, and it started getting really dark. Next thing you know, I’m hitting chunks of mud and I’m wondering, What’s going on? I look in my rearview mirror and I see mud flying up,” Rob says. “Then I look forward, and all of a sudden I have to slam on my brakes. There’s a black car in the middle of the road — upside down. I didn’t even see it until I about hit it. I was headed right into it.”

Rob Schulte

Rescuer: Rob Schulte

He immediately pulled over, got out of his car and went to see if he could help. With the car on its roof, Rob got down and repeatedly started yelling, “Anybody in here?!” No answer. With the cab of the car smashed in and the airbags deployed, he couldn’t see much. Then the strong odor of gasoline served as a warning to move away.

Rob ran toward a big ditch on the side of the road, weaving his way through car parts. “I started yelling for people and running around using the flashlight on my phone as a guide. I look down and see a blue object in the weeds. Sure enough, it’s a body. I was telling myself, Please be alive, please be alive,” he says.

Rob runs over to find a survivor unconscious, but breathing. There was no telling how long he had been there. Rob tapped him on the shoulder, which elicited a moan. Then Rob looked down and noticed the man’s leg snapped in two. Blood squirted out with every pulse.

“He was laying sideways, the way you would lay on a pillow. Half his face was covered in weeds, but looked fine,” Rob says. “Then he rolled over. His jaw was broken, lots of teeth were busted out of his mouth, half his head was just drenched in blood.”

That’s when the man tried to get up. In an effort to keep him calm and still, Rob turned to him and said, “Sir, just sit here. I’m going to do what I can to help you.” With that, Rob took off his own shirt and used it as a tourniquet on the man’s leg, then applied pressure to stop the bleeding. He got out his phone and called 911 on speaker.

Ten to 15 minutes later, the state police arrived, closely followed by volunteer firemen. They doublechecked the car, then EMS showed up and took over. They radioed for a medical helicopter to transport the man to a hospital, and that was the last communication Rob heard about the man.

“It was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my life, but because of my training, I was prepared for it,” he says. That training included CPR AED, First Aid, Blood Borne Pathogens and others. Rob’s worked at the same production plant for 13 years, during 12 of which he’s served as what they call a MRT or Medical Response Team member. As part of that group, he’s had yearly training.

“I tell everybody the same thing,” Rob says. “Please get American Heart Association training. You may not ever use it, but if there comes a time you need it, you’ll be prepared. That’s what I preach.”

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Colorado School Nurse Spearheads Cardiac Emergency Response Plan in Her District

Out in a far-flung corner of southwest Colorado sits Moffat Consolidated School District #2, home to the Moffat PreK-12 School Cowboys and Crestone Charter School (K-12). Both schools have a grand total of just over 200 students … combined. “It’s a small community, the town of Moffat has a little over 100 people in it,” says district school nurse Sarah Elchos, MSN, RN. “It’s not really a small town, it’s more frontier.”

With that designation comes challenges, especially in regard to the availability of emergency services. “One is Moffatt and Crestone do not have a nearby hospital. The closest one is 35 minutes away, and Moffat doesn’t have an ambulance service,” Sarah says. In the event of an emergency, the schools have to rely on neighboring towns for help, which can mean a 35-minute wait before lights and sirens reach their front door. “So there really is a need for our people to actually be able to save someone while we wait on the ambulance,” Sarah says. “And we didn’t have a CERP in place.” 

A CERP, or Cardiac Emergency Response Plan, can increase sudden cardiac arrest survival rates by 50 percent or more by enabling a trained lay-responder team — such as teachers — to take action until Emergency Medical Services arrive.

“Through my school email, I got an invitation to a free, online Project Adam webinar from the American Heart Association (AHA) and Children’s Hospital Colorado,” Sarah says. Project Adam is a nonprofit that helps schools establish a CERP through its Heart Safe Schools program.

“They actually have a tool that helped me fast track my plan,” Sarah says. “It had a checklist and explained everything needed for the school CPR/AED progam. It’s a step-by-step guideline. It was exactly what I needed.”

Indeed, Project Adam provides the foundation for schools to plan and develop their own program, including CERP templates, a reference manual and even one-on-one consultation. Everything is customizable, even for schools on the frontier. Also, because of Sarah’s seminar attendance, the district received free mannequins and other educational supplies to teach hands-only CPR and AED training to students.

“I got the CERP written and approved through the superintendent, and she let the school board know,” Sarah says. Through a nurse grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Sarah got the additional hours she needed to work the plan, going from just 20 hours per week to 40.

First, she ordered the American Heart Association’s Heartsaver® CPR/First Aid/AED Training, designed for anyone with limited or no medical training who wants to learn how to give CPR and use an AED in a safe, timely and effective manner. “I wanted us to really be prepared if something happens,” she says. “We had AEDs, and I’m an old ICU nurse, so I wanted to make sure people knew how to use them,” Sarah says. “Initially, I was shocked by the number of ‘Oh, we have an AED?’ questions.”

During the 2020-2021 school year, she used the AHA Heartsaver course to train 19 teachers, as well as a group near and dear to her heart — interested graduating seniors, just in time for them to go off into the world. She also taught hands-only compressions to fourth and fifth graders at the Moffat school.

Toward the end of the school year, it was time for a drill, which proved helpful. Sarah placed a dummy in the front office, and so it began. “The call for help was put out over the walkie-talkies. That’s one thing we immediately identified that we need to do better, make sure the whole school is aware, not just the walkie-talkie users.”

She now awaits the results of her submission to Project Adam for Moffat to be designated as a Heart Safe School. She’s hopeful that the Title 1 school has enough AEDs to qualify, meaning one available in three minutes from anywhere on the facility. Come June, Sarah will be able to apply for a grant to get even more AEDs. “I have everything ready to apply,” she says, in true Sarah style.

“It’s all been well received,” she says. “This was my first time teaching children, and I felt more comfortable starting with the younger classes, then I’ll move on to the older groups. I really want to teach hands-only to middle school up to tenth grade, and I’m hoping I can expand the AHA Heartsaver to eleventh and twelfth grades every other year.”

So what’s been her biggest secret to success? “It’s just perseverance and staying on top of it,” Sarah says. “There’s no need to put a lot of pressure on yourself. Just let it flow.”