Rescuers and a victim of sudden cardiac arrest reunited in an emotional reunion Thursday night.
On Sept. 29, Mark Sessler stopped to get lunch at Ruggies restaurant in the 3100 block of Crow Canyon Place in San Ramon when suddenly things went dark. He'd suffered from a sudden cardiac arrest.
Fortunately for Sessler, off-duty nurse Laura Garland was sitting in a nearby booth. Garland noticed that Sessler had lost consciousness and was slumped over at his table, and she reacted immediately by beginning CPR.
Also at the restaurant was server Tracey Coulson, who called 9-1-1 and stayed on the phone with San Ramon Valley Fire Dispatcher Polly Moniz until paramedics arrived.
"This is a perfect example of how bystanders can help save a life", said Capt. Andy Swartzell, emergency medical services coordinator for San Ramon Valley Fire. "The off-duty nurse and the server did everything right: they called 9-1-1 and started CPR."
Garland provided CPR for nearly five minutes until San Ramon Valley Fire rescuers arrived on the scene. Firefighters and paramedics from Station 34 used a defibrillator on Sessler twice before his heart returned to normal rhythm.
The three met up again at a special presentation at the November San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District Board of Directors meeting. While both the women declined to comment at the event, in conversations, the two said they were pleased to help and happy to see Sessler at the event and doing well.
San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District spokesperson Kim French said there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
The event also highlighted the need for people to learn what to do in the case of sudden cardiac arrest.
"The willingness of the two bystanders to step up and take action during this emergency made all the difference in the successful outcome for this patient," said Capt. Jim Selover. "We encourage everyone to learn CPR and help during times of need."
Sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack, stroke and other heart diseases are the leading cause of death in the United States, but patients who experience sudden cardiac arrest are far more likely to survive if that episode occurs in the San Ramon Valley.
The rates are due in part to the district's HeartSafe community program, which encourages residents to learn hands-only CPR, promote the placement of public access AEDs and teach students CPR. Since January 2011, the program has trained more than 4,500 residents in hands-only CPR and AED use and has seen a sharp increase in the occurrence of bystander CPR.
"This incident is a perfect example of why someone suffering a sudden cardiac arrest is 50 percent more likely to survive should it happen in the San Ramon Valley," Fire Chief Paige Meyer said.