Thursday 23 Oct 2014

Information and opinions presented here do not always represent the views of the American Heart Association.

STORIES FROM THE HEART: Potential Memorial Day tragedy avoided thanks to family, friends who knew CPR

Published: 9:00 am CDT, May 22, 2014

Tim Weaver was cleaning a boat engine one minute and frantically gasping “Help” the next.

His son-in-law David Andrew was ordering pizza one minute and dialing 9-1-1 the next.

Family and friends around them were wrapping up their Memorial Day weekend on the beach one minute and pulling together to try and save 59-year-old Tim’s life the next.

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Tim was cleaning the boat engine when he lost strength and fell into the water. He’d had a heart attack and gone into cardiac arrest.

When David heard a neighbor screaming and saw them on the dock reaching for Tim, he jumped in the water. David, his brother-in-law Ben Landry and the neighbor got Tim on the dock.

What they saw made David think his beloved father-in-law — a probate attorney with a heart of gold — probably was dead.

“His eyes were bloodshot yellow and rolling in the back of his head,” David said. “His face was blue and he got very bloated.”

David performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, summoning the skills he’d learned as a Boy Scout more than 20 years before. David’s efforts might’ve helped empty about a cup of water from Tim’s lungs.

“Those skills came back to mind right away,” David said. “There was no thinking.”

He wasn’t alone. Family and neighbors sprang into action by finishing the 9-1-1 call, doing chest compressions and pacing whoever’s turn it was to give compressions. Urging them to push hard and fast was critical.

But would CPR save Tim? While David didn’t think so, he also didn’t give up hope.

“One of the most important things is not to panic,” David said. “Part of my personality is not to panic. You have the capability to do something.”

A few hours before, Tim had felt what he thought was heartburn. He took some medicine, drank a little water and rested.

“It never entered my mind that I could be having a heart attack,” Tim said. “It’s funny how you have a tendency to forget about your heart.”

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Tim got 12 minutes of CPR before paramedics arrived and gave him oxygen. After two hospital stays and an operation to insert a stent to open a narrowed artery, he felt almost good as new.

His survival can be credited to the fast actions of family and friends.

After a cardiac arrest, survival chances drop every minute, and even further without CPR or defibrillation, according to the American Heart Association. But if given right away, effective CPR can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. Unfortunately, only 41 percent of victims receive it.

Although Tim was fairly healthy, he was a smoker.

“My doctor said if I didn’t smoke for the rest of my life I’d probably never need another stent,” Tim said.

His family is grateful that things all came together on the dock that spring day.

“You know the people you walk by and never see? He sees all of them, whether they’re shining shoes or delivering the newspaper,” David said. “He’s just that guy. I’m glad he’s still around.”

As for CPR, get trained, he said.

“It’s a very low cost of time to give somebody back years of their life,” David said. “And when that person’s close to you, it’s invaluable.”

The American Heart Association helped pioneer CPR more than 50 years ago, and continues to refine this lifesaving technique. The organization trains over 14 million people each year in 60-plus countries. Even without formal training, anyone can be a lifesaver by remembering the steps to “Hands-Only CPR” – call 9-1-1, then push hard and fast in the center of the chest, preferably to the beat of the classic disco song, “Stayin’ Alive” until help arrives. This is a great time to learn the lifesaving skill, as the first week in June is CPR Awareness Week.

Tim Weaver (center, holding baby), surrounded by his family.David Andrew is on the right (with child on shoulders), and Ben Landry, is on the far left.

(Photo by Images of Grace Photography)

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Do you know a “Story from the Heart” we should tell?

Send an email to stories@heart.org that’s as brief or as detailed as you’d like.

Previous “Stories from the Heart” include:

‘Tough times don’t last, but tough people do’ – like this survivor of a stroke when she was 15

Surviving stroke is a sprint for this marathon runner

Stroke limits attorney, but she’s fighting back – and helping others do so, too