About a Cardiac Arrest Survivor

About a Cardiac Arrest Survivor

When Americans know CPR and understand cardiac arrest, they are more than willing to help cardiac arrest victims. Here is a condensed story from The Kansas City Star, Friday, November 23, 2012.

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Cardiac-arrest victim bucks survival odds, thanks to three women


The Kansas City Star

Shelley Lewis pumped Joe Bell’s chest roughly 1,500 times in 15 minutes. The two-inch-deep compressions cracked ribs, broke his sternum and punctured a lung.

They also saved his life.

Bell, who builds upscale homes in Chicago, was visiting the Kansas City area on Oct. 20 to see family, including his daughter, St. James Academy volleyball coach Nancy Dorsey.

While here, he went to Blue Valley Southwest to watch her squad play for a berth in the Kansas state high school tournament.

At the tournament’s awards ceremony, Bell, 65, suffered massive cardiac arrest and collapsed to the balcony floor.

If not for the quick actions of Lewis and two other women in the crowd who didn’t know one another but worked calmly and in concert, Bell probably would not be alive today. On two occasions that evening, Bell had no pulse and stopped breathing.

As the gymnasium full of spectators held its collective breath and prayed, the three women — Lewis, Miege teacher Linda Ernst and St. Thomas Aquinas parent Sherrill Tokic — worked feverishly to keep Bell alive until an ambulance arrived.

Dorsey calls the events that played out on the balcony floor ringing Blue Valley Southwest’s gym a miracle.

“I just told myself, ‘This cannot happen — not here, not today, not in front of these girls and his daughters,’ ” Lewis said.

Lewis is the director of physical therapy at College Park Family Care.

She’d originally planned to leave immediately following the tournament’s championship game, but ended up videotaping the match.

Delayed several minutes to pack up her camera, Lewis was heading for the exit when she saw Bell on the ground.

“I handed the camera to somebody I didn’t even know,” Lewis said. “I didn’t even ask her. I just shoved it at her, threw the rest of my stuff on the floor and dropped down to my knees, because I knew he was in trouble.”

“When I got there,” Lewis said, “he was a color I’d never seen — a purple, dark-red purple, almost blackish color I’ve never seen before.”

On the hardwood floor below, cries rang out for assistance from anyone with medical training. Ernst and Tokic sprang into action.

Ernst, an assistant volleyball coach, is a certified CPR instructor who teaches the life-saving technique to her freshman physical education classes. She’d also trained Dorsey and the rest of the St. James faculty.

“This little voice in my head kept telling me, ‘They need the defibrillator,’ ” Ernst recalled.

She went to get the school’s defibrillator. Meanwhile, Tokic raced up the stairs.

“I handed my purse to my husband (David) and said, ‘I’ve got to go. This is my call of duty,’ ” said Tokic, who has been an operating-room nurse for 21 years and works at the University of Kansas Hospital’s Indian Creek Campus.

Dorsey’s husband, Bryan, arrived with scissors and cut off Bell’s shirt so the defibrillator pads could be adhered to his chest.

Ernst turned on the machine, leaned in so she could hear its commands, and ordered everyone clear.

But the device didn’t revive Bell, whose color had improved as Lewis labored away but worsened rapidly when no electric shock was delivered.

Another try, same result. Why the defibrillator failed is unclear.

“Waiting for the defibrillator, we were back to ground zero or even worse than before,” Lewis said. “I couldn’t sit there and watch him die, so I started doing chest compressions again.”

After what felt like an eternity to the women, the EMTs arrived and took over.

Bell remembers nothing of his near-death experience, but he spent the next 20 days in the hospital, battling pneumonia, among other things. He still faces a long road to recovery.