Most people don’t expect to come face to face with a life or death situation, but that’s exactly what happened to Mickey Bernhardt of Corvallis.
On a warm afternoon in July of 2011, Mickey’s husband, Bob Bernhardt, went into cardiac arrest and Mickey had to jump into action.
“I was working in the kitchen while my husband, Bob, was building shelves in our basement. His drill had died so he’d come upstairs to recharge it. On his way back downstairs, he called out for me and told me he was having chest pain,” said Mickey. “There was something in his voice; I didn’t even look at him,
I just called 911.”
While dialing 911, Mickey ran into the living room to find Bob slumped over a chair; the corners of his mouth and eyes were blue. “He’d gone into cardiac arrest. He looked like he was gone,” recalled Mickey.
Mickey spent 14 years working as a unit secretary in a California emergency room where she was required to be certified in CPR. Mickey admits she never enjoyed the training and was sure she would never need to use CPR. But in that instant, Mickey knew she had to remember what she’d learned from those years of CPR training.
“I dragged him to the floor and started CPR. I knew that the compression to breath ratio had changed but I could barely hear what the 911 operator was telling me so I went ahead and did 15 compressions to two breaths, which is what I remembered from my training,” said Mickey. “I was so afraid I was doing it wrong but I could see his chest rising when I gave him breaths, so I knew it must be working.”
Paramedics quickly arrived and were able to get Bob’s heart going again with a defibrillator before transporting him to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, where cardiologist Dimitri Greschner, MD, was waiting. Bob was quickly taken to the Cardiac Cath Lab where Greschner placed a stent (a small mesh tube) in his heart to help restore blood flow through Bob’s blocked artery.
Bob spent six days in the hospital recovering. While the experience was scary for the Bernhardts and their family, both look back and credit Greschner and others at Good Sam for the high level of care they received during their ordeal.
“Dr. Greschner is such a skilled and compassionate physician. He was so good to me and my kids, he showed us such respect throughout the entire ordeal and was so willing to answer our questions,” said Mickey.
Bob agrees. “The staff was amazing, especially my nurses. Everyone was so accommodating, experienced and caring. Whatever they’re doing at Good Sam, they’re doing it right.”
Greschner credits Mickey for saving her husband’s life. “It was a team approach that cared for Bob and got him well, but Mickey was the first link in the chain, and the most important. That’s what saved his life. He would not be here today if not for Mickey performing CPR on him,” said Greschner.
Recent statistics from the American Heart Association show that approximately 88 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home, and less than eight percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive.
“Learning CPR is invaluable, and anyone can learn it,” said Greschner. “The muscle requirements for CPR are similar to that of gardening. So simply put, if you can work in your garden, you can perform CPR and potentially save a life.”
Now a year and a half later, Mickey and Bob are doing cardiac rehab together three days a week at Good Sam, and they’ve made changes to their diet and lifestyle to help keep them healthy and out of the hospital. The couple, like Greschner, encourages everyone to get trained in CPR.
“Even if you don’t think you’ll ever use it, get CPR training,” said Bob. “You never know what can happen in life, and all it takes is one time. You could save a life like my wife did.”