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When every second counts

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Ryderwood resident Terri Haugan (right) sitting in the spot where she was overtaken by Sudden Cardiac Arrest the evening of June 5. Husband Bob Haugan (left), who had received regular first-aid training during his 44-year career with Weyerhaeuser, was able to respond immediately and administer CPR for 13 minutes until ambulance crews arrived.

When someone experiences Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), there are no warning signs. No pain in your chest or arms, no dizziness or trouble breathing. Your heart simply stops.

When 61-year-old Terri Haugan suffered SCA on June 5 at her home in Ryderwood, she was just sitting on a couch using her iPad. Though she had seen a doctor weeks earlier about recurring chest pain experienced during the previous two months, she said that day she was feeling nothing unusual when she went into arrest.

Her husband, Bob Haugan, was sitting right by her when it happened and said he heard an unusual noise and looked over to see his wife in trouble. He dialed 911 and put the phone on speaker mode so he could lay his wife on the floor and begin performing CPR.

“I was pretty shook up,” said the 63-year-old, who had previously been trained in CPR during his career with Weyerhaeuser. “But, if I didn’t do anything, I was going to lose her.”

His immediate response turned into 13 minutes of chest compressions while dispatch remained on the line advising him aid was on its way. Bob Haugan said he was running on “pure adrenaline” at that point and was unsure how much longer he could keep going when responders from Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20 and Lewis County Medic One arrived to begin reviving and stabilizing Terri Haugan.

Though she had to be defibrillated at one point before transport, the speed of her recovery was seen as extraordinary by responders, given what she had just lived through.

“We didn’t even make it to the freeway and she was already talking to us, answering my questions,” said District 20 EMT Ruth Crear, who had been the first on scene along with Captain Rex Dobbins and Chief Rich Underdahl.

These three, as well as Medic One paramedics Kirk Johnston and Kyle DePriest, and District 20 Commissioner Carol Stein, took an opportunity to meet with and check up on their patient Sunday afternoon and remarked how well she appeared to be doing after two arterial stints and five days spent at St. Peter’s Hospital, in Olympia.

“I can’t get over how great you look,” said Underdahl. “This is remarkable here, to be in the condition that she’s in now.”

“Once they’re in,” said Terri Haugan of the stint treatment, “then it’s like you start over with a new heart,” adding she intends to treat her heart better this time by kicking habits such as smoking.

She added the worst pain she is feeling right now is some soreness in the three ribs that had been broken when she underwent CPR, but otherwise said she has been taken off all restrictions by her doctor. The responders conceded that, if one is performing CPR correctly, a few ribs are going to be broken, and added Bob Haugan’s swift use of the technique had likely been responsible for his wife’s survival.

“Your CPR, getting started and kept going, did the trick,” said Underdahl, noting his district is not always fortunate to encounter patients who survive SCA and other severe events given their response times to remote local communities.

Underdahl said this is one reason District 20 is hoping to hold yearly CPR classes in Ryderwood and is planning one for August, with a date to be set later on. He also said efforts are under way to establish a list of Ryderwood residents with first aid training to respond and assist distressed patients while aid is en-route, similarly to the care provided by Bob Haugan in those precious moments after his wife’s heart attack.

“I always said, ‘I’ll never use this,’” he remarked of the bi-annual training Weyerhaeuser required of him during his 44-year career, adding this repetition helped him respond even under great duress. “I was amazed, I guess, how I just kind of went into that mode, so to speak.”

Bob Haugan said he now encourages anyone, who feels able, to undergo CPR training, while Johnston said those with worries about physical ability should keep in mind adrenaline will make a significant difference when the need for CPR arrives.

“You’d be amazed at what you could do,” he said.

Those who wish to learn more about the anticipated CPR training by District 20 may call (360) 295-0906, while those with first aid training willing to be available during an emergency can contact Cissy Sanders at (360) 295-3813.

District 20 is also on the lookout for volunteers within the Vader and Ryderwood areas available to help with patient treatment and transport, and interested parties are encouraged to call the district office.

(Left to right) Paramedic Kyle DePriest, paramedic Kirk Johnston, of Lewis County Medic One; Bob Haugan, Terri Haugan; Captain Rex Dobbins, Chief Rich Underdahl EMT Ruth Crear, and Commissioner Carol Stein, of Cowlitz-Lewis Fire District 20, met with the Haugans Sunday afternoon to check in on Terri’s condition, remarking she was recovering very well.

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