Tuesday night, Patrick Carpenter finally got to see the hat that saved his life.
Well, to say that a hat saved his life might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it was a tiny part of a series of events that allows Carpenter to say he is alive today.
On Oct. 13, Carpenter and his wife, Amy, who had gone to South Bend to see the Notre Dame-Stanford game, stopped off at a nearby bookstore.
At the same time, Reenae Lane, her son, Matthew, and her significant other, Gary Davis, were about to leave the bookstore when Lane spied a peculiar hat with ear flaps and asked her son if he liked it.
Matthew looked at the hat and hemmed and hawed for a bit.
Nearby, Carpenter, from Churubusco, complained to his wife that he was suddenly feeling shaky. Moments later he went into cardiac arrest and collapsed.
You can argue that it was fate, chance or Matthew’s hemming and hawing that made the difference, but the fact is that Lane, a nurse at Parkview Hospital, and Davis, an emergency room physician in DeKalb County, who could have been on the sidewalk outside, were in just the right spot at just the right time when Carpenter collapsed.
It quickly became clear that Carpenter had no pulse, so the two started hands-only CPR (just chest compressions) while someone called 911.
About five minutes later, two state troopers, who had been directing traffic, came into the bookstore to escape the rain, saw what was happening and took over.
Carpenter got CPR for about 12 minutes before an ambulance took him to the hospital.
Today Carpenter, who is 47, fit, has 7 percent body fat and owns four fitness centers, is alive and well. His heart is fine, and no one has any idea why he suddenly went into cardiac arrest.
Tuesday night, at Shorty’s Steakhouse in Garrett, Carpenter, who says he has no recollection of that day, finally got to meet Davis and Lane – and to see that funky hat.
What do you say to the guy who saved your life other than thank you, several times, said Carpenter, who had a medium-rare filet.
So, all in all, it’s a nice story with a happy ending, and the kid got his hat.
But there’s a lesson to be learned here, too. Lane says that a person who goes into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital or emergency room has about a 1 percent chance of survival. That’s because all too often people stand around doing nothing, and in the five minutes it takes for an ambulance to arrive, a person can be brain dead.
That 1 percent survival rate might be a bit of an exaggeration. Carpenter himself says he has heard it’s more like 10 percent. Different people will give you different answers.
Having someone nearby who knows how to give CPR, though, using just simple chest compressions, can dramatically increase a person’s odds of surviving cardiac arrest.
Carpenter is proof.
Training people is the trick, and in Fort Wayne, efforts to train people haven’t gone well.
For the past four years, the city has been offering the public free instruction in basic CPR, holding about three large sessions a year.
The city actually has the capacity to train several hundred people a day during those sessions, but response hasn’t been good. Since the program started in October 2008, only 1,685 people have received the training, a disappointing level, says Heather Van Wagner, who helps promote the program.
When new training sessions start next year, it might be worthwhile to attend.
Saving someone’s life isn’t that complicated.