Gary Hartman was thoroughly enjoying his Highline High School 40th reunion with classmates in Burien, Washington, last month when without warning, he fell headfirst into the appetizer table. He was having a cardiac arrest. Fortunately, he was surrounded by friends who quickly jumped into action.
“I never saw it coming. One minute I was talking to my friends and the next minute I was out,” Gary recalls. Gary is pictured left with Tricia Anderson.
Jeff Harris (pictured below), Tricia Anderson and other classmates moved Gary to the floor. Jeff, a newly retired Burien firefighter, started CPR, and Tricia instructed someone to call 911 and find an automated external defibrillator (AED).
An AED was not available, so it was up to Jeff to continue compressions until help came.
When the paramedics arrived, they administered a shock that restarted Gary’s heart. His friends weren’t sure if their efforts had been successful until Gary began yelling at them.
“I didn’t know what was going on until I heard Jeff’s voice and saw the badge on the paramedic’s uniform! I guess I came back fighting,” Gary says.
He was safely delivered to the hospital and later underwent a quadruple bypass.
“People who require a quadruple bypass are usually not this fortunate. Gary was lucky to have people around him that had the skills to give him the help he needed,” Jeff says.
Tricia had recently taken First Aid training through her employer, Abbott Construction.
The company insists employees remain up to date on their safety skills. A sponsor of the American Heart Association’s Puget Sound Heart and Stroke Walk and supporter of the association’s CPR training efforts in the community, Abbott donated CPR Anytime kits to a local hospital. Tricia delivered them a week before Gary collapsed. Little did she know, she would be practicing CPR skills in real time a week later.
“It was an eye-opening experience for everyone at the reunion. No one expected to get a reminder that it can happen to any one of us at any time,” Jeff says.