By Kristy Ann Pike
Like many other grandpas, Hurricane resident Lawrence Clements loves watching his grandchildren play sports. But he never dreamed that attending a softball game would save his life.
Lawrence was carrying lawn chairs into his granddaughter’s recent game in Snow Canyon when he became disoriented and collapsed.
As spectators gathered around Lawrence, Zach Slade, who was watching his own son’s T-ball game, noticed the commotion, and jumped up to see if he could help.
As (good) luck would have it, Zach is a nurse at Dixie Regional Medical Center’s cardiovascular unit. He and another spectator, Weldon Mickelson, immediately started CPR on Lawrence, who had no pulse. The pair continued until the paramedics arrived, shocked Lawrence once, and sped him by ambulance to Dixie Regional’s emergency department. Lawrence was shocked four additional times en route.
At the hospital Dr. Kory Woodbury, cardiovascular surgeon, performed triple bypass surgery on Lawrence.
“I had no previous symptoms of heart problems,” said Lawrence, who remains somewhat mystified by the experience. In fact, the 61-year-old had just been to his physician that morning for a check-up, where his blood pressure and pulse had been normal. “I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I don’t eat red meat. I play ball with the grandkids. I really had no idea I had heart problems.”
After surgery, Lawrence was moved to the hospital’s cardiovascular floor — Zach’s unit. It was a happy reunion for the new friends. “It’s not often you get to shake the hand of the man who saved your life,” said Lawrence. “If I had not been at that ball game, and if Zach had not been there, I would be dead.”
Although Zach works with heart patients every day, this was his first experience in resuscitating a patient outside of the hospital. “I never anticipated using my nursing skills that way, but they trained us well. I didn’t really even think about it — my reflexes kicked in.
“I was amazed that he was down for so long but came out of it with no serious damage. He has recovered just like someone who came in as a standard heart patient. I did a small part, but it was a team effort at the hospital.”
Lawrence agrees. “The people in the hospital treated me like a king. The doctors, nurses, nurse assistants, and technicians were charming. I even liked the food.”
He is especially thankful for “a lot of good Samaritans. When most people finish at work they go home and are done for the day. People in the kind of job like Zach work 24/7. You’re always on duty.”
But it doesn’t take an MD or even a degree in nursing to save someone’s life. “CPR actually works,” said Zach, who wasn’t the only one on the scene that day who put CPR training to good use. Weldon Mickelson, who also helped, is employed by the Washington County School District, and is trained in CPR because he works with kids with disabilities.
“I never in my life thought I would use my CPR training,” said Weldon. “When we first started CPR, he was gray. It was amazing to watch the color come back. It gets you more excited. With all the adrenaline, it felt like I could have kept doing chest compressions for hours.”
“I didn’t have to tell him how to do compressions,” said Zach. “I wouldn’t want to be a bystander watching someone who was down and not be able to do anything about it. Without CPR, Lawrence would not have made it.”
For more information on how to become trained in CPR call the DXATC American Heart Training Center at (435) 674-8641 or Margie Woodruff at the American Red Cross (435) 674-4440.