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One CPR Class Saves The Day

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Going strictly by the numbers, 49-year-old Rick Reynolds should not have survived the night of Aug. 4, 1999. Consider:

Ten. The number of minutes before he was reached by paramedics after his cardiac arrest.

Nine. The number of defibrillator shocks paramedics gave him.

Two. The number of weeks since his wife, Cindy, also 49, took her one and only CPR class.

But thanks to Cindy's quick thinking that night at the local Steak 'n Shake in Greenwood, Ind., the odds favored Rick.

Call it heroism. Call it instinct. By Cindy's own admission, she wasn't even sure whether she was doing more harm than good. All she knew was that Rick was in trouble and somebody had to act fast.

''At first I was like, 'Can somebody help me?' and there was no response,'' she says.

So she thought, ''OK, somebody's got to do this, so I guess it's going to be me.''

Rick couldn't have been choking, she thought. They had only just ordered their meal when Rick keeled forward onto the table, frothing at the mouth and turning dark red.

Some onlookers suggested that he was having a seizure and that it would be best not to touch him. When Cindy checked and found he had no pulse, she knew that she would have to start CPR.

So for 10 minutes, while waiting for a medical team called by the restaurant, she was on the ground next to her husband, breathing, pumping, checking and praying each step of the way that the previous step was the right one.

When medics finally arrived, they shocked Rick so many times that months after the emergency he would still be able to feel the burn marks in his chest.

Though the defibrillator shocks were able to get Rick's heart beating again, nothing could have brought him back were it not for Cindy keeping his blood circulating until help arrived.

Rick's recovery was slow. He was left with an enlarged heart, and he has fatigue and short-term memory loss. His injuries left him unable to return to work, and for awhile, he had acute depression.

But today, Rick has found new purpose and often volunteers his time to the local hospital, talking with fellow heart patients. He says he hopes his story will empower people to take action the next time they see someone in need.

''A lot of people learn CPR. But a lot of people are afraid to use it,'' he says. Rick has since learned CPR himself. ''I figured if I could return the favor someday,'' he says, ''I would do whatever I could.''

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© Copyright 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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