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PulsePoint: Fast-acting residents aid runner suffering from cardiac arrest

LPFD holds special ceremony to honor citizen heroes at Shadow Cliffs

Albert Hart got to meet with his rescuers on Thursday and thank them for saving his life. From left: Albert Hart, Jeremiah Howland, Rafael Ledezma-Villalva, Anthony Nguyen, Joseph Jerome, McKenna Stevulak, Juliana Schirmer, Bill Schirmer and Trish Hart. (photo by Ryan J. Degan)

While on a run on Stanley Boulevard outside of Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area in Pleasanton earlier this year, Albert Hart suffered sudden cardiac arrest just a week before his 28th wedding anniversary.

A dangerous situation no matter the circumstance, Hart’s brush with death could have been much closer were it not for the efforts of some good Samaritans, off-duty Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department cadets and a CPR-trained lifeguard.

“This story should serve as inspiration for anyone who is able to learn CPR to do so. There is no better example of how important the bystander link is in the chain of survival,” said LPFD deputy fire chief Joe Testa, who stressed that passersby choosing to act saved Hart’s life.

Fellow firefighters, rescuers and members of the community braved Thursday’s scorching heat to attend an award ceremony at Shadow Cliffs Lake, where Hart thanked each person involved in his rescue and Testa gave awards of merit to the rescuers.

“I consider this a tragedy in some sense, but it is truly a blessing because now it has given me the opportunity to think about the things that are important in life,” Hart told the congregation of roughly two dozen attendees. “And to take that moment to help somebody in need, never just go by, don't assume somebody else is going to stop.”

On June 15, the 59-year-old Hart was doing some endurance training with a friend near 2500 Stanley Blvd. The Harts, who live in Marin, often travel to Pleasanton to train because of the availability of running routes along with open water swimming.

But that day outside Shadow Cliffs, Hart went into a sudden cardiac arrest. Recognizing the severity of the situation, Hart’s friend Albert Dyrness flagged down Bill and Juliana Schirmer, who called 9-1-1 and started CPR.

While driving by, off-duty LPFD cadets Cody and Jason Stearns saw the serious event, pulled over and took the lead on CPR duties while the group waited for an ambulance.

Fortunately for Hart, the Schirmers' 9-1-1 call also triggered PulsePoint, a smartphone app created in the San Ramon Valley that alerts CPR-trained residents when there is a cardiac arrest victim nearby, enabling them to jump into action and use their training -- an app that Testa praised as a more than significant contributor to Hart’s survival.

The PulsePoint alert reached the ears of nearby lifeguards McKenna Stevulak, Joseph Jerome Rafael Ledezma-Villalva, Jeremiah Howland and Anthony Nguyen who were in the possession of an automated external defibrillator (AED). The group used the device to deliver a defibrillation shock before paramedics from the LPFD and Paramedics Plus arrived on scene to take Hart to the hospital for further care.

Hart would recover and was released from the hospital eight days later -- the day after his wedding anniversary. He is set to celebrate his 60th birthday later this month.

“There really aren't words that are sufficient when somebody saves a life. I mean, what can you say? There isn't really a gift you can give somebody who saves a life,” said Trish Hart, Albert's wife. “Thank you for saving my husband's life and for saving my life.”

During Thursday’s ceremony, Albert Hart thanked the brave efforts of his saviors and said that their actions restored his faith in humanity.

“I am truly blessed to be here and it gives me really good faith in what humanity does,” he said. “In this day and age with all of the stuff we hear about in Dayton and El Paso and people can't come into our country, you guys gave (my faith) back to me.”

“This miraculous recovery was only possible because of the individuals who chose to learn CPR and those who know CPR and downloaded the PulsePoint app,” Testa said.

Testa added that PulsePoint is active in all of the Tri-Valley and more than 3,600 communities across North America. First deployed in 2009 by former San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District fire chief Richard Price, today the PulsePointFoundation is headquartered in Pleasanton. PulsePoint earned SRVFPD an inaugural Tri-Valley Heroes award back in 2012.

The LPFD does not offer CPR training courses but does refer anyone interested to Red Cross First Aid Training which offers courses throughout the country, including Dublin and Livermore.

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