Whether it’s the bystander who performed CPR, the EMT who stabilized a patient or a firefighter who gave life-saving services — they’re all HeartSafe Heroes to Johnson County Med-Act.
The county last week honored five groups of helpful bystanders and emergency personnel who came to the aid of five different people in the past year.
For Gage Banks, their efforts were a miracle. Gage, a 14-year-old freshman at Blue Valley North, doesn’t remember his heart stopping at a cross-country meet at Johnson County Community College last September.
Capt. Tom Turner does. The Johnson County firefighter was off-duty that day and was in the stands to watch his daughter, Hannah, run. She asked him if they could stay to watch the boys run, too, and he agreed.
Not long after, she came to him and said a boy had collapsed — Gage. Turner thought it might have been from an injury, but it became clear that the situation was more serious.
He and Prairie Star Middle School nurse Theresa Donaldson rushed into action, providing CPR for eight minutes until other emergency personnel arrived on the scene. They shocked Gage with an AED and were able to stabilize him for a trip to the hospital.
“It’s just something that you automatically do,” said Donaldson, who has previously performed CPR in the course of her duties.
Turner said that even though he does CPR as a firefighter, it’s different when a situation comes up in everyday life.
“When you’re on duty, you’re with a crew. You have guys around to back you up,” he said.
It turned out that Gage had a congenital heart defect — an anomalous vessel. Gage and his family hadn’t known about the problem.
“I was very blessed with the people who were there,” Gage said.
After the ordeal, he recovered enough to go back to school, then sat out the last two months of the semester after having open heart surgery at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
Now, he’s feeling as good as new. He’s even looking forward to running in this fall’s cross country season, not quite a year after his heart stopped.
His parents say it’s a miracle.
“Everyone was in the right place at the right time. We were praying, and they were doing CPR,” said Rian Banks, Gage’s father. “He was strong through the whole thing.”
Turner also feels the joy of seeing Gage recovering.
“It’s amazing, it really is, to have him walk around, laughing like normal,” Turner said.
Gage’s classmates have learned CPR since then, though he said the program wasn’t in reaction to his incident.
“The funny thing was our school went to do (the training) when I was in (the hospital). I missed it,” Gage said.
His story is just one of the stories told at the ceremony. There’s also Nancy Holland, who suffered sudden cardiac arrest in a Leawood restaurant and survived because quick-thinking restaurant manager Richmond Carson knew CPR and was able to keep her alive until emergency personnel arrived.
The role of the bystander was also crucial for James Barkley, who had a heart attack at The Athletic Club in Overland Park; for Glenn Miller, who had a heart attack at home; and Les Rosenfeld, who collapsed at the Jewish Community Center.
“When people have the courage to step in and help, there is a great ending,” said Rebecca Banks, Gage’s mother.
Former Kansas City anchorwoman Anne Peterson hosted the event and emphasized the importance of CPR, learning to operate automated external defibrillators and the newer technique of compression-only CPR, which does not require mouth-to-mouth breathing.