Art Cales is one of the lucky few.
It took a series of fortunate circumstances to revive the 51-year-old when he had a sudden heart attack at Lifetime Fitness near E-470 and South Parker Road in January.
“They basically brought me back to life,” Cales said. “I was dead.”
“They” refers to the handful of people who rushed to his aid, including personal trainer Kate Jureller, 27, of Denver. It was around 6 a.m. when she was teaching a team weight-loss class and heard people yelling for help. An alert came over the intercom, and Jureller says she was the one who happened to grab the automated external defibrillator off the wall.
She and Kate Tillman, a physical therapist at Parker Adventist Hospital, performed CPR after finding that Cales was not breathing. His complexion was ashen and his lips were cold, said Jureller, who placed the AED pads on Cales’s chest. After detecting an abnormal heart rhythm, the machine administered two shocks, bringing Cales back after three minutes.
Ten minutes earlier, he was in a room by himself, beginning a first set of exercises designed to help him recover from rotator cuff surgery. He began to feel lightheaded, and, from a standing position, hit the floor with a solid impact. It got the attention of a nearby Lifetime Fitness patron, Mike Staheli, who alerted everyone to the trouble.
“The next thing I know, I’m looking up at people,” Cales said. “They were asking me my name, but that was all I could remember.”
It turned out that every single one of his arteries was at least 50 percent blocked, some completely so. Blood had stopped flowing through his body. He went into surgery to remove the clots and is recovering well, although he reinjured his shoulder during the fall.
Sudden cardiac arrest struck nearly 360,000 people nationwide in 2013. For each minute defibrillation is delayed, the chance of survival is reduced approximately 10 percent, according to the American Red Cross. The CPR administered prior to the shocks was also important.
South Metro Safety Foundation Executive Director Cheryl Poage, who has helped get AEDs installed in local high schools and public buildings, says the lifesaving machines are proving their worth. In fact, a teacher in the Cherry Creek School District was saved Feb. 4 when a defibrillator the foundation funded was used.
Cales, a Parker resident since 1996, works out regularly and said there were no warning signs of a heart attack, but he says his “family is the history of heart disease.”
Jureller learned from one of the responding paramedics that Cales arrived at the hospital and had been stabilized, news that brought her great relief. Cales is so grateful for his second chance that he is assembling the team that helped save him at Lifetime Fitness within the next week to thank them in person. Jureller, a CPR-certified former lifeguard, says it was “surreal” speaking to him on the phone.
“I heard that his wife said `thank you,’ that I had saved a husband and a father,” she said. “That really hit home. I realized it was more than his life that I impacted.”
Jureller, whose mother is an emergency room nurse, said it was a team effort that saved Cales. She said “everything might not have turned out as well as it did” if not for the actions of many and early intervention. She is eager to meet Cales, but doesn’t need thanks. She said knowing he is okay is enough of a reward.
As for Cales, he is “reconnecting with God” and enjoying each moment he has with his family.
“Every day is a new adventure for me now,” he said.