RICHLAND, Wash. -- The American Heart Association’s staggering statistics show that one in three people survive cardiac arrest when witnessed by a bystander.
Cardiac arrest claims thousands of lives in this country every year, but knowing what to do and having adequate access to highly trained personnel can change that trend.
"I was walking across the foyer here and as I came close to the doors, that's the last thing I remember," said Mike Gilchrist, founding pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Richland.
Last month, he was walking out of the Wednesday night church service when he went unconscious.
"We were walking out together, having a conversation actually, and mid-sentence he just stops," Senior Pastor Randy Barnes said. "I caught him and laid him down. He was not breathing, I check for pulse and respiration, there was neither."
As a former law enforcement officer, luckily, Pastor Randy was well trained in CPR.
He ordered his wife to call 911 and another member to run and get the AED. The church decided to invest in an AED in recent years, after a church member, who is also firefighter, suggested having it.
Meanwhile, 911 dispatchers put out the call for help.
"We had just finished training and were on our way to dinner when we heard the call on the radio that there was a man who was unconscious,” explained Karen Davis, a volunteer for Benton County Fire District #4. “We were driving right by so we stopped."
Karen decided to become a volunteer for logistics support for BCFD #4 five years ago, following the night firefighters save her home from a massive blaze. She said it’s a way of paying back and serving the community.
She's also a certified EMT. She arrived at the church scene as the AED was administering a second shock.
"It called for more CPR, so I jumped in and did CPR and the ambulance was a few minutes behind us," Karen said.
Karen kept up with her training for 24 years, and never used it on a real person until this moment. Her first try was a life saved.
"It's very humbling for me personally, but all the training and years of practice came together. It's great to be able to help somebody," she said. "It's amazing to me because I know the odds are not in my favor."
The average survival rate of a cardiac arrest victim is 10.6 percent and survival with good neurologic function is only 8.3 percent, according to the American Heart Association.
Fortunately, Mike has had a speedy and successful recovery.
"It's because there were people trained, because we had the right equipment, and because we had a fire district that could get here in good time," Mike said. “Because of that I’m still here today.”
Pastor Mike and Pastor Randy said they're forever thankful for their life savers or the people we call our first responders.
"They're a vital link, without them it wouldn't have worked," Pastor Randy said.
The pastors feel passionately about supporting our local fire districts and emergency personnel.
"Between what you do in an emergency and what they do at the hospital is that vital link, called the emergency responders,” Randy said. “They really need the tools and the personnel to do that job, and while it may cost money, we spend a lot more money every year on Starbucks than we do on emergency services workers. I think we really need to think about that."
First responders and the pastors stressed that it is important to have as many people in our community AED and CPR certified because the window of life is only 6 to 10 minutes.
By working together and as a community to respond to crises, first responders said we can help save lives.
"The idea that it won't happen to us or to our family members is a well-intended, but misplaced idea," Randy said. "Never assume you won't need it. The life you save might be your own family members.”