Jason Crary watches a lot of television. And nobody is happier about that than Tom Gallatin.
Crary's favorite evening pastime saved Gallatin's life.
Both men work at Fletcher's Tire and Auto on Highway 260 where Gallatin, a 55-year-old mechanic, died of sudden cardiac arrest at about 11:30 a.m. Dec. 26.
Crary, the shop's manager, reached Gallatin about 30 seconds after he'd hit the cement floor with a loud thud.
"Tom was gone," Crary said. "He wasn't responding, he had no pulse, his eyes were wide open, his face was turning purple, everything."
But that didn't stop 30-year-old Crary from doing everything he could to help his friend and co-worker everything he had learned from watching the television series "E.R." and medical documentaries on The Learning Channel.
"I'd never done CPR before," Crary said. "I'd seen it done, but had never performed it myself."
Still, he performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation perfectly.
"I plugged Tom's nose, blew down his mouth, and started doing compressions on his chest," Crary said. "Then I'd do it all over again. I felt like I had been doing CPR for an hour and a half actually it was about 2 minutes when a doctor came running over with a scanner. He started doing mouth-to-mouth while I did the chest compressions. But after a while, he told my assistant to call 911 and say that Tom was 'coded,' meaning he was (dead)."
Despite that fear, neither Crary nor the doctor gave up. They continued performing CPR until an ambulance arrived, and paramedics attempted to revive Gallatin with a defibrillator.
"They shocked him 5 or 6 times, but nothing," Crary said.
When Gallatin was transported to Payson Regional Medical Center, Crary and the doctor were certain Gallatin was gone.
"They didn't revive Tom until after he got to the hospital," Crary said. "I'm glad it happened here at the shop. If it had happened at his house, where he lives alone, we never would have found him."
Dead on arrival
"I couldn't tell you what happened," said Gallatin, a Pine resident now recuperating at his mother's Valley home. "I was gone. I was actually dead for a little while there, I guess, until they shocked me and brought me back to life.
"They tell me I was watching a trailer back up, and the next thing they knew, I was passed out on the ground. I'd never really had heart trouble before. I'd been treated for high blood pressure, but that's it."
On that morning, however, Gallatin had heart trouble. Since then, he has undergone triple-bypass heart surgery and the installation of a new aortic valve, or defibrillator.
"What would have happened if Jason hadn't acted as quickly as he did? Well, I wouldn't be here talking to you," Gallatin said.
The Chain of Survival
Tom Gallatin is a whole lot luckier than even he seems to know.
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) strikes up to 350,000 Americans each year. To be more specific, it snuffs out a life every two minutes of every day. Two out of three of those deaths occur before the victims even reach the hospital usually at home, work or in a public place such as a restaurant or mall.
Sudden cardiac arrest is an abrupt disruption of the heart function, causing lack of blood flow to vital organs and resulting in loss of blood pressure, lack of pulse and loss of consciousness. SCA strikes without warning and can leave the victim dead within a matter of minutes.
But up to 30 percent of SCA victims, or almost 300 per day, could be saved through "The Chain of Survival" a series of critical actions promoted by the Mogollon Lifesavers, a cooperative effort by the Mogollon Health Alliance, and the Payson Fire Department to educate Rim country residents on life, death and vital health issues.
According to Payson firefighter Garret Ward, who will lead a free CPR class at the new Payson Public Library Feb. 16, the four critical actions in the Chain of Survival are:
"Early Access" to emergency medical care through 911 or other emergency numbers. This access is essential for professional treatment to arrive in time to be effective, within four to seven minutes. The sooner EMS personnel arrive, the greater the chance of survival. And critical seconds or minutes can be shaved from "Early Access" when these SCA symptoms are recognized: unresponsiveness, loss of consciousness, loss of pulse, loss of breathing.
"Early CPR" which can keep oxygenated blood flowing to vital organs, such as the brain and heart, and therefore buy time until help can arrive. When an automated external defibrillator (AED) is not available and sudden cardiac arrest is confirmed, CPR must be initiated within four minutes to keep the brain and heart viable.
"Early Defibrillation" the most important single factor in determining SCA survival. Simply put, when the heartbeat is chaotic and ineffective, the only treatment is defibrillation, or shocking the heart into a regular rhythm. For every minute that goes by without defibrillation, the chances of survival decrease by 10 percent. After 10 minutes without defibrillation, the chances of survival are practically nonexistent.
"Early Advanced Cardiac Life Support" the essential treatment required after the heart rhythm has been restored. It includes airway intubation for proper ventilation, drug therapies, monitoring and other advanced means of care.
"There's a reason why Tom came back," Jason Crary said, refusing to take any credit beyond what he or Tom Gallatin would do for anyone in the same situation. "It just wasn't his time, and it was just my time to do something good."
One thing Crary has discovered in the days since he saved Gallatin's life, he said, is how few people know CPR.
"The guy who was backing up the trailer when Tom had his heart attack was a certified nursing assistant, and he didn't know how to do CPR. He stood there and watched and said, 'Good job, good job.'"
Now, however, everyone at Fletcher Tire and Auto has first-hand knowledge of CPR's phenomenal lifesaving power even when it's learned from a TV series.
"You know that free CPR class?" Crary asked. "Guess what? I'm gonna go to it."