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CPR training helps staff at Euless golf tournament save man's life

EULESS -- A benefit tournament had just ended Monday at Texas Star Golf Course when an unidentified 78-year-old man collapsed at the pavilion.

"He fell backward onto the concrete patio ... and hit his head," said Leigh Ann Stockard, an American Heart Association employee who was helping with the tournament.

She shares credit with John Aritua, head chef of Raven's Grille at the golf course, for saving the man's life.

Stockard started CPR, doing heart compressions as the man's friend gave him breaths. Kerri Bracken, another association employee, shouted for an automated external defibrillator.

Aritua was the first (two others followed) to show up with the machine. He was in the club's office a couple of hundred feet from the pavilion when the man went down.

"I was standing right beside the defibrillator when I heard someone say a man had a heart attack," he said. "I grabbed it and ran as fast as I could. When I saw him laying on the ground and the lady doing compressions on him I said, 'This is not playing; it's for real.'"

Lessons on operating the defibrillator ran through Aritua's head as he opened the device and placed its pads on the victim's chest.

"The machine said 'Move away!'" he said. "We took our hands off him, and it shocked him. Then he took his first breath and I watched pink replace the blue in his face and lips."

Only a few weeks ago, the entire Texas Star staff was CPR-certified and AED-trained, said Jeff Morris, the Euless Fire Department's EMS chief.

"We taught 30 people down there in four classes," he said. "All the staff, including the groundskeepers, wait staff, golf marshals and convention staff, were trained."

Morris said the goal is to train all city employees to do CPR and operate the more than 35 AEDs in city offices and facilities.

The machines cost about $1,000 each, and Euless has been buying them a few at a time for years, Morris said.

The incident underscores the importance of CPR training, said American Heart Association spokeswoman Claire Kinzy.

"You never know when you're going to need it, when you'll have the ability to save someone's life with it," she said. "National CPR Week is the first week in June. It might be a good opportunity for people to start learning. You can go to handsonlycpr.org to find out how."

Stockard said she had a CPR refresher course only a week before working at the tournament and never imagined she'd have to use it.

"It went just like clockwork, just the way I'd trained," she said. "It feels good to know what to do in a situation like that."

Freeman Companies helped sponsor the tournament, and company spokeswoman Carrie Freeman Parsons said the victim remains in a hospital.

"His heart is doing well," she said. "When he fell, he hit his head pretty hard, and he's still in the hospital because of complications from that."

She said the irony of the incident wasn't lost on those attending the tournament.

"Clearly it was a poignant moment, considering the benefit tournament was for the American Heart Association," Freeman Parsons said.

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

Twitter: @fwstevans

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