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4 men thank Fire Rescue for saving them after cardiac arrests

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By Ramsey Scott

When people experience heart-stopping moments of the figurative kind, that’s usually a positive; a literal heart-stopping moment can be deadly unless life-saving actions are taken immediately.

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Thanks to those immediate life-saving actions, four men, all of whom had recent cardiac arrests, thanked the people who helped save their lives.

On July 9, William Brewton, Victor Anderson and Michael Howell thanked the Littleton Fire Rescue first responders.

On July 10, Bob Marlin, who spent years training people in CPR, thanked those who used the training to save his life.

The odds of surviving a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital are only 9 percent. Even when a cardiac event happens inside a hospital, the chance of surviving only goes up to 24 percent, according to the American Heart Association.

Thanking first responders

Brewton, Anderson and Howell survived their cardiac arrests because 911 was called and CPR was performed immediately, said Littleton Fire EMS Capt. Mike Simon.

Currently Littleton’s survival rate for cardiac arrests outside of a hospital is about 16 percent, about 7 percent higher than the national average, Simon said.

What also makes all three cases rare is the paramedics and firefighters who helped save their lives learned what happened to their patients. Once patients leave the ambulance, the crew doesn’t know what happens to them.

“This is the first time I’ve actually been able to meet a patient like this in this setting,” said Littleton paramedic Craig Salber, who responded to Anderson’s emergency.

Anderson, who lives in the Columbine area, said he and his wife, Carol, now visit Littleton Fire Rescue Station No. 13 on a regular basis.

“It’s like we’re part of the family because they made us feel like we’re part of their family,” Carol said. “When we first visited the station, everyone knew who Victor was immediately. They were so excited to see him up and moving. Can you imagine not knowing what happens to the people you’re trying to save?”

Being saved by those he taught

Bob Marlin’s mission has been to help save the lives of people who suffer a cardiac arrest. It turns out, he was helping to save his own life as well.

Marlin taught CPR to almost all of the West Metro Fire Rescue firefighters and paramedics before he left the department to join South Metro Fire Rescue and an EMS educator.

He also was instrumental in teaching Foothills Parks & Recreation District employees CPR and working to place an AED in each district facility.

That groundwork helped Marlin survive his own cardiac incident on May 10. Marlin and his brother Bill had just teed off from first tee at the Meadows Golf Course. As he walked to his shot, Marlin collapsed.

Bob’s brother and several bystanders, including Foothills employees, performed CPR. Marlin also received an electric shock from an AED at the golf course. It was these two actions that saved Marlin’s life, said West Metro EMS Division Chief Bruce Dikken.

“The truth is by the time firefighters get to a scene where someone’s had a cardiac arrest, chances are somebody’s probably been down too long to really help them. The difference can be made by citizens providing CPR and by citizens providing electric shock very quickly,” Dikken said. “That’s what happened with Bob. That’s what saved Bob’s life.”

That’s why firefighters and paramedics dread cardiac arrest calls.

“When we realized it was (Bob Marlin), there was a moment of, ‘Oh crap.’ This is someone we know really well. But then, we just fell back on our training and went to work,” said West Metro paramedic Mike Berumen, one of Marlin’s CPR students. “It’s surreal. The best part for me is he’s standing right there.”  

“It’s difficult to put into words how proud I am, not just of the people I taught but everyone,” Marlin said.

Marlin said as more people are trained in CPR and more AEDs are placed in buildings and parks, the odds of surviving a cardiac arrest increase.

“I’m not in an ICU somewhere, spending thousands of dollars a day to be taken care of because of what happened,” Marlin said. “It’s given a real-life example that’s very close to me to relay.”