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September 30, 2014

CPR instructor's father saved with procedure

By Laura Garcia
Victoria Advocate

VICTORIA, Texas — Sheri Sklar knows the importance of emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It's her job to teach CPR at Citizens Medical Center.

And a scary episode during the Christmas holiday last year, when her father suffered an acute cardiac arrest, proved just how vital it is to know the life-saving procedure.

On Dec. 22, as the family sat down for an early Christmas lunch, Allan Sklar collapsed. The 74-year-old was healthy, but he experienced a sudden electrical pulse to his heart that caused it to stop beating.

His sister called 911 and her husband, along with Allan Sklar's stepson Doug Schaffer, started to administer CPR.

The 911 dispatcher instructed them on how to start chest compressions.

Schaffer already knew how because he had CPR training at work. The family was able to pump blood to the brain and to the heart muscle, delivering the oxygen that still remained in his lungs and blood.

"I know that's what helped, because it's the reason I'm not dead," Allan Sklar said. "It kept me alive."

He said a quick response from paramedics also helped. "Within five or six minutes, they were here," he said.

Lt. Dana Woodward, who at that time was a paramedic engineer with the Victoria Fire Department, answered the call that day in the 200 block of Mossy Oaks.

"It took us a minute and a half," he said. "The good CPR that was done prior to us getting there was, I believe, the reason for the success of this story."

Allan Sklar's case was discussed Wednesday among two dozen emergency medical service practitioners, firefighters and representatives from regional hospitals at a monthly call review. The meeting at the Victoria Fire Department's Drill Field, 1411 S.W. Ben Jordan St. typically reviews cases of critical trauma, stroke and heart attacks.

Effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim's chance of survival, but only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander, according to the American Heart Association.

Woodward, who also teaches CPR, said some people get caught up in counting during the procedure.

"I always just tell them, do it. Just do it," he said. "If you're just doing compressions you're doing that person good."

Woodward said he's had 11 saves in his career, and they always say it feels like they've been hit by a linebacker.

"We're pressing hard and fast," he said, adding sometimes patients have broken ribs when they arrive at the hospital.

"But we can fix all that," Sklar said. "The important thing is to never, never stop."

Home is where 88 percent of cardiac arrests occur, according to the American Heart Association.

Woodward said when he answers calls in the county, he sometimes has to administer CPR continuously for almost 30 minutes.

But even then the survival rate is slim. He said the training books show 6 percent of patients who have cardiac arrests outside the hospital survive even with early CPR administered.

"The statistics are going up," he said.

The reason those statistics are getting better is that more people are learning CPR, he said.

"It might be 6 percent, but you're at least giving them a chance," Sheri Sklar said.

She said she took advantage of the time her family was together waiting for her father to get out of surgery after his cardiac arrest. While doctors surgically placed her father's pacemaker in his chest, she taught bystander CPR to a dozen of her family members from her 86-year-old aunt to her 4-year-old nephew.

She said learning that an early response had saved her father's life makes CPR that much more important.

"It's just a remarkable thing," she said. "Everyone needs to know how to do CPR."

Woodward couldn't agree more. Both of his sons know CPR.

Allan Sklar said there's no doubt that CPR saved his life.

"It's real valuable to have it because you just never know," he said.


McClatchy-Tribune News Service
©2014 Victoria Advocate (Victoria, Texas)