Celebrating a Life Saved at the Hands of a Stranger
Chad Pfund was just wrapping up an evening of bass fishing at Warner Park when he heard a cry from another boat.
“Help! We need an EMT or paramedic here! Someone’s having a heart attack!”
He didn’t think twice.
“I saw him in his boat, hunched over,” Pfund recalls, referring to John Wilson of Sun Prairie, who had just docked his boat before suddenly collapsing. “I jumped into his boat and said, ‘Let me take over.’”
Pfund, an off-duty Emergency Medical Responder with the Monroe Fire Department, began giving Wilson life-saving chest compressions and instructed others to call 911 and find an AED at the nearby park shelter.
Responding from Fire Station 10 on Troy Drive, Lt. Matt Thomas and his crew were at the scene just three minutes after receiving the call. They placed Wilson on a backboard, lifted him out of the boat, and began providing advanced life support in the ambulance.
For people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, receiving high-quality chest compressions from a bystander is a critical link in what’s known as “the chain of survival.”
High-quality chest compressions help ensure oxygen is still flowing to the brain even though the heart is not beating.
When EMTs and paramedics take over, they are able to provide supplemental oxygen, defibrillation, and critical medications to attempt to restart the heart.
For Pfund, jumping in to provide chest compressions was second nature, but for many others, the thought of intervening is a scary one. Pfund says one simple way people can overcome these fears is to become trained in CPR.
“It doesn’t take that long to take the class. Go ahead and do it,” he said. “You never know when you’ll need it, and what does it hurt to learn something like that? It makes you better as a person.”
Dane County boasts a 50% survival rate among patients who suffered cardiac arrest in the presence of a bystander who provided chest compressions and/or applied an AED before first responders arrived. The national average is just 37.3%.*
Wilson is one of a handful of people in Madison who survived sudden cardiac arrest this summer thanks, in part, to bystander intervention.
Dane County EMS and its partners, including the Madison Fire Department, continually aim to increase the survival rate by promoting CPR training and the PulsePoint app, which alerts citizens when someone nearby is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
You do not need to be CPR-certified to provide chest compressions, but some level of training is highly recommended. It is important to know, and experience through practice, the proper rate and depth of compressions.
Back in the ambulance on August 12, Wilson was placed on oxygen as chest compressions continued on the way to the hospital. Paramedics Brandon Jones and Justin Nelson delivered one shock from the defibrillator.
“Ouch!” Wilson yelled, grabbing his chest. From that moment, he was alert and able to tell paramedics about his medical history.
Lt. Thomas waited with Wilson’s wife at the hospital, his fate still unknown to them. Soon they learned the good news.
“The doctor or nurse came out of the ER and said, ‘Your husband’s waiting for you. He’d like to talk to you,’” Lt. Thomas remembers with a smile. “That, and him surviving, was the coolest thing about this call.”
At a reunion at Fire Station 10 thirteen days later, Wilson shared with the crew his plans for the future, which include becoming CPR certified. Knowing what a difference it made for him, he’s ready to pay it forward.
“I owe everyone my gratitude,” Wilson said. “These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”
* Data retrieved from the 2019 CARES report on Utstein Bystander Survival.
PICTURED ABOVE (L-R): AE Ethan Dade, Lt. Matt Thomas, John Wilson, FF/PM Brandon Jones, FF/PM Justin Nelson, FF/PM Tyler Prothero
The following MFD personnel are not pictured but did help provide life-saving care to Mr. Wilson: FF/EMT McKinnan Stamschror, FF/EMT Diondrae Jenkins