CPR-certified one day earlier, man saves life

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A Good Samaritan credited with saving a jogger who went into cardiac arrest says it took a “miracle of circumstances” for him to be in the right place at the right time.

Larry Black and Jeff Eshbaugh were strangers the morning of Sept. 22, but by the end of the day, they would be at the center of a life-defining moment for both of them. Eshbaugh, an athletic, married father of one, went for a run. Black, 43, had just left church and called his wife while driving to work.

Black’s plans to stop by his house changed when his wife mentioned she had already let the dogs out. He took a different route, and that’s what led him to Eshbaugh, who was lying motionless in the street.

Compelled to offer any help he could, he stopped and quickly learned that the two bystanders at the scene didn’t know CPR. It turned out that Black had been re-certified after a CPR class at the Red Cross the day before, a day that also happened to be Eshbaugh’s 48th birthday.

“Who would have thought, 24 hours later, I’d be standing over Jeff?” Black said during an Oct. 3 press conference, as Eshbaugh, seated next to him, smiled from ear to ear. “They say God works in mysterious ways, but sometimes I don’t think it’s so mysterious.”

Dr. George Pachello, a cardiologist at Parker Adventist Hospital, where Eshbaugh was treated, said Black’s intervention likely saved Eshbaugh’s life. It generally takes 5-10 minutes for a brain without blood flow to incur irreversible damage or quit functioning. Black’s application of chest compressions while waiting for paramedics made the difference, Pachello said.

“If this happens to him home alone, he dies,” he said. “There’s no spontaneous recovery from this.”

Eshbaugh was shocked with an automated external defibrillator three times by EMTs, then went into cardiac arrest again after arriving at the hospital. It took a team effort to ensure his survival, and Black says he was glad to have been a part of it. His wife deserves credit, too, as she was the one who suggested six months earlier that they get certified in CPR, a maneuver they last learned 25 years earlier.

Adding another twist to the story, the team of nurses who first treated Eshbaugh as he arrived at Parker Adventist recognized him as the Jeff who regularly delivers oxygen tanks to the respiratory department. They assured Eshbaugh’s distraught wife, Joan, that they would make sure he received the best care.

Eshbaugh doesn’t remember collapsing or anything before waking up at the hospital. He was immediately placed in a temperature management device called the Arctic Sun, which cooled his body temperature to preserve brain and heart function.

Despite an absence of heart trouble in his family, Eshbaugh suffered a coronary artery dissection, which is commonly known as the “widow maker.” There were no warning signs and doctors have been unable to pinpoint a definitive cause for the episode. A stent was placed in his heart and Eshbaugh must undergo a few more tests, but he is otherwise in good health.

The press conference marked the first time that Eshbaugh came face-to-face with Black.

“You look much better than the last time I saw you,” Black said, hugging Eshbaugh.

“I’m glad you were there,” Eshbaugh said.

Joan Eshbaugh became emotional at the press conference when she told the story of learning about the accident at work, then hearing what happened through accounts from witnesses. She heard that Black saw the ring on Eshbaugh’s finger and was further motivated to save a man who had a family.

During the press conference, she couldn’t contain her gratitude for the person responsible for making sure her husband is around for their 25th anniversary next month.

Turning toward Black, she said, “You have no idea how much thanks I have for you.”

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