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January 21, 2011

Okla. church pastor saved woman with CPR

By Sonya Colberg
The Oklahoman

MUSTANG, Okla. — Scott Badgett felt restless.

He couldn't really say why, but the associate pastor gulped down his lunch at home and then got back to Chisholm Heights Baptist Church within 30 minutes.

In the church gym, church preschool coordinator Martha Rhodes took a lunch break with others who volunteered in the kitchen. They were kidding around, talking about being tired. As if to demonstrate how tired she really was, Rhodes slumped against a friend's shoulder. Everyone laughed at her antics.

But the laughter turned to gasps of terror.

When they realized she had knocked over her glass of iced tea, they knew she wasn't joking around.

Somebody had the presence of mind to call the main office, where Badgett heard the cry over the speakerphone.

"Call 911! It's Martha, and it's bad!"

Badgett heard enough.

"I just took off running to the gym," he said.

"By the time I got there, you could see that Martha was white. Her lips were already blue."

Rhodes' heart had stopped. Some people were scrambling around in fear, and someone had the 53-year-old Rhodes on her knees in the floor.

"Somebody help me lay her out flat!" Badgett yelled. Badgett would have a hand in saving someone that day. This time, it was physically instead of spiritually.

For the first time on a human, Badgett began "bystander CPR," in which he did chest compressions. He learned cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a mannequin about three decades earlier and got a refresher course about a decade ago.

Hands-only chest compression, without breathing into the victim's mouth, is now recommended by the American Heart Association to help an adult who has suddenly collapsed.

"She was really nonresponsive the whole time," Badgett said. "I'll be honest. I didn't have much hope at that time."

He kept doing chest compressions until the Mustang Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services Authority paramedics arrived. EMSA paramedic Kimberly Maze said Rhodes wasn't breathing and had no pulse when they arrived. Probably the difference in Rhodes' surviving was continuing the bystander CPR until paramedics were in place to take over, she said.

"In my 13 years with EMSA, this was probably the best bystander CPR that I have ever seen," Maze said.

Paramedics had to use a defibrillator to electrically shock her heart three to four times before Rhodes showed signs of life. Once she was rushed to the hospital, doctors found three blood clots - in her shoulder, arm and heart - had knocked Rhodes to the edge of death.

"They said people like me are usually found dead," Rhodes said.

Bystanders are sometimes fearful of mouth-to-mouth contact through regular CPR when they witness cardiac arrest, EMSA spokeswoman Lara O'Leary said. That's one reason the heart association's new recommendations on deep compressions without mouth contact are important. And a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows survival rates were higher in the compression-only group, compared with those people who received no bystander help and those who received conventional CPR.

O'Leary said, just as in the Rhodes case, EMSA paramedics who are dispatchers will advise callers on what to do: How quickly to push on the chest and other details while EMSA medics are en route.

Without bystander CPR, a sudden cardiac arrest victim's chance of survival decreases 7 to 10 percent per minute, studies have found. Bystander CPR can double or triple a person's chance of surviving cardiac arrest, yet less than one-third of those not in hospitals receive bystander CPR.

A USA Today study shows Oklahoma City and Tulsa are among the top 12 cities in terms of surviving cardiac arrest. O'Leary said the success rate could rise even more as more Oklahomans learn CPR.

Rhodes said she had been encouraging the church to host free CPR classes. After her experience, the church held a CPR class that attracted about 15 students.

Rhodes said every time her husband, Steve, sees Badgett, he thanks the pastor for saving his wife that day in September. She is well now and plans to stand up at a Mustang City Council meeting tonight to thank Maze and her EMSA partner, Mustang firefighters and her pastor for saving her life.

"Words just fall so far short. Words are just words, and it's a heartfelt thing. I can't begin to thank them enough," Rhodes said.

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