Monty Suttle has no memory of the evening in June when his girlfriend found him unconscious in the back yard.
But friends have filled in the details about how Robin Fertig saved his life.
She could have panicked, Suttle said. Instead she dialed 911, then followed CPR instructions from the MedStar call-taker. "It was the best thing anybody has ever done for me," said Suttle, who is 58 and met Fertig at church about two years ago.
Fertig immediately dialed 911 after she couldn't find Suttle's pulse. Then she was working hard on chest compressions when Westworth Village police officers Jeramey Miller and J.D. Lee arrived to take over. Within minutes, a MedStar EMS team showed up and used a defibrillator to establish a heartbeat.
Then on the way to the hospital, the team used IV fluids and ice packs to cool Suttle's core body temperature and prevent brain damage.
In recognition of their quick response, Fertig, Miller and Lee were presented the MedStar Community Hero Awards during the Westworth Village City Council meeting Tuesday.
The awards draw attention to the importance of responding quickly when someone experiences cardiac arrest. In an interview afterward, Fertig said she was "completely shocked" to receive the award.
"When I saw his condition, I knew what I had to do," she said. "If I didn't, I knew I would lose him, and there was no way I was going to lose him because I couldn't do what I needed to do."
For every minute that there's no blood to the brain, it decreases the chance of survival by 10 percent, said Dr. Jeff Beeson, medical director for MedStar EMS. After 10 minutes, the chance of death is almost 100 percent.
"By using CPR, Ms. Fertig and officers Miller and Lee saved the patient's life and prevented brain damage that can occur when the brain is deprived of oxygen," Beeson said.
"If you suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, there's an 8 percent chance of survival," Beeson said. "With bystander CPR, you can double or triple the chances of survival."
The American Heart Association has long urged people to learn CPR and more recently recommended hands-only CPR for bystanders who see an adult suddenly collapse.
Hands-only CPR involves chest compressions administered very hard for six minutes without breathing into the person's mouth. The American Heart Association has suggested doing the compressions to the beat of the 1970s Bee Gees song Stayin' Alive.
Fertig did not hesitate to do the recommended 100 compressions per minute, but she did it with such force that she fractured her thumb.
But she acted quickly. Unfortunately, less than a third of people who find someone in sudden cardiac arrest do so, according to the American Heart Association.
The reasons for hesitation vary.
Some are afraid they'll break the person's ribs, said Alexandra Wall, spokeswoman for the heart association's south central affiliate. Although CPR causes rib or breastbone fractures in at least one-third of cases, the risk of death without it is so high that it overrides concerns about those injuries.
To make it easier to learn CPR, the American Heart Association has a kit that includes a DVD that can be viewed at home.
"A lot of people think you have to learn CPR to do it," Wall said. "But you don't have to be certified to save someone's life."
Fertig is certainly proof of that.
"I just think the world of her," said Suttle, who now has an internal defibrillator to keep his heart beating regularly. "She's wonderful."
JAN JARVIS, 817-390-7664