Fast-Acting Friends Save Heart Attack Victim On Golf Course

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Speedy CPR treatment from four friends meant the difference between life and death for Frank Szakal.

"What can I say to my friends except, ‘Thank you. I'm glad you were there,'" Szakal said.

The friends, Laura Meyocks, Troy Neal, John Pauley and Tim Ernst, were nearby when the 64-year-old Szakal's heart stopped beating while playing Oct. 5 in a tournament at Payson Golf Course.

The four teamed up to apply life-saving resuscitation until Payson Fire Department paramedics arrived with a defibrillator to begin life support.

After being treated by the PFD, Szakal was airlifted directly from the third hole at PGC to a coronary care unit at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix.

Szakal said his physician, Dr. Ali Askari, found a blocked artery, installed a stint and a high-tech combination pacemaker and defibrillator called an ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator).

About one week after the near-death experience, Szakal returned to Payson Golf Course to say thanks to the friends who had saved his life.

"My doctor said that less than 20 percent of the people who have a heart attack like I did, live," he said. "And those that do are usually brain damaged."

Szakal is sure it was the quick thinking of Meyocks, Neal, Pauley and Ernst that prevented him from becoming another heart attack statistic.

"When my heart stopped they kept me alive with (chest compressions) that moved the blood to my brain and heart," Szakal said. "They also gave me mouth to mouth (resuscitation) until the fire department got to me."

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It was a happy reunion at the Payson Golf Course for, from left, Troy Neal, Tim Ernst, Laura Meyocks and Frank Szakal. The last time they were together, Neal, Ernst, Meyocks and John Pauley gave Szakal cardiopulmonary resuscitation after he collapsed on the course from a heart attack Oct. 5.

According to a Mayo Clinic Web site, in treating a heart attack victim, "the most important thing you can do is to proceed directly to chest compression to move the blood to vital organs."

Meyocks, Neal, Pauley and Ernst agree the entire episode was daunting and unnerving, but are thrilled their friend survived and might soon return to the sport he loves -- golf.

Meyocks, after giving Szakal a huge welcome back hug, said, "It is so very good to see him up, walking and well."

The attack

Szakal remembers just seconds before the heart attack reaching down to pick up a ball.

"I felt dizzy and I think I said, ‘hey, guys, I'm passing out,'" he said. "That's the last thing I remember until I woke up in a gurney and was told I had a heart attack and was being loaded in a helicopter."

At the time of the episode, Szakal was playing in a Payson Men's Golf Association two-man scramble with Neal, Ernst and Pauley.

Seeing that their playing partner had fallen, the trio scrambled to find a cell phone to summon 911 help.

"I had a cell in my (golf) bag, but didn't tell anyone it was there," Szakal said.

After securing a phone and dialing 911, the trio began to treat their fallen friend.

Meanwhile, Meyocks -- a registered nurse -- saw the commotion while driving near the golf course and rushed to the scene to see if she could help.

Alongside Ernst, Pauley and Neal, Meyocks worked to keep Szakal alive.

"I've been told at one time I stopped breathing and had no pulse," Szakal said. "When the fire department got there, I believe it was Toby Waugh who shocked my heart."

The decision was made not to transport Szakal to Payson Regional Medical Center, but rather to airlift him directly to a Valley hospital.

"I woke up in the helicopter and they told me we were going to Mesa General," Szakal said. "I told them my doctor was at Good Samaritan, so they changed (destinations)."

After spending a few days in the hospital coronary care unit, Szakal said he was fitted with the ICD and allowed to return to Payson.

"It (ICD) is a little smaller than a deck of cards and sits just below my collar bone," Szakal said. "The wires coming out of it that go to my heart are a little hard to get use to."

In reflecting on the entire episode, Szakal considers himself a very fortunate man.

"There was a angel sitting on my shoulder, that's for sure," he said. "That angel and my good friends saved my life."

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