Everyday Heroes: The Chain of Survival

A stack of Clackamas Fire challenge coins for lifesavers.

It’s not often people get to share a stage with their heroes.

But for Jim Jaggers, Brian Paveletz, and a handful of other thankful people and their families, this week’s touching ceremony at Providence Willamette Falls Community Center didn’t just give them the chance to see their heroes again -- they got to shake those heroes’ hands and tell them face-to-face just how important they are.

That’s because their heroes gave them a priceless gift: more time on this Earth.

“I wanted to meet the people who saved me,” says Jaggers, one of six cardiac arrest survivors who attended or took part in Clackamas County Fire District No. 1’s Chain of Survival ceremony in late November.

Jaggers, a longtime school teacher, collapsed at a grocery store in October, the victim of a sudden cardiac arrest.

Fortunately for Jaggers, Clackamas County Fire Division Chief Bill Conway was shopping, too, and was an aisle over, perusing the beer section.

“We heard a crash,” says Conway.

He may have been off-duty, but as other people stood by not sure how to help, Conway jumped into action. He told his wife, Judy, to call 911 and guide arriving paramedics to the correct aisle. Then he started hands-only CPR on Jaggers.

“It gave me a really interesting perspective of what the lay-rescuer sees, and thinks, and does,” says Conway, who’s a big proponent of CPR in the community and teaches the life-saving technique himself. “The only difference between this and the calls I’ve gone to in the past is I just happened to be off-duty. It really was no different. I saw someone in cardiac arrest, and just did CPR.”

And so, for the first time, Conway found himself on the other side of the podium, receiving one of the specially designed challenge coins instead of awarding them to other lifesavers who acted as links in The Chain of Survival, a metaphor first adopted by the American Heart Association and embraced by Clackamas Fire.

The Chain of Survival includes five distinct links, starting with the call to 911. The next link is immediate, high-performance CPR, the third link is an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), the fourth is EMT or paramedic treatment on scene and in the ambulance, and the fifth is critical care at an ambulance.

For Jim Jaggers, having Chief Conway an aisle away was an important way to start his rescue. For Brian Paveletz, help was in the car with him, and on the other end of the phone.

Paveletz went into cardiac arrest in August in the passenger seat of a Chevy Tahoe. Wendy Sargent called 911 and shouted for her friend Dale Maulding. Dispatcher Amy Dornfeld told her they had to get the 240-pound Paveletz out of the SUV and onto the ground, and they’d need to do CPR. Maulding bear-hugged him and they somehow got him out.

Then, Sargent didn’t know CPR, but Dornfeld guided her through.

“She told me what I needed to do,” says Sargent. “She said you need to go down two inches on his chest, compress that far down.”

“She broke every rib in my chest,” laughs Paveletz. “But hey, it’s OK! I healed up, pretty much.”

When those rapid compressions exhausted Sargent, Maulding took over. When paramedics arrived, they had to shock Paveletz four times before his heart would start beating in rhythm again. Then two of them stayed behind to reassure Sargent after the ambulance took Paveletz away.

“When they transported him, once they got him back, those two firemen, they just stood there with me, they just stood there,” she remembers, her eyes tearing up at the thought. “And I’d wanted to connect with them, and I’ve been thinking about that and when they called us, to do this, it was just very very cool.”

Today, Paveletz is mostly healed and says he’s sharper than ever. He’s also thankful for every link in his Chain of Survival.

“It worked out very well thanks to these two here. They saved my life,” says Paveletz, throwing an arm around Sargent.

And he gushes about the paramedics and firefighters who got his heart going again.

“These people here are superheroes. They all need capes,” he says.

Jim Jaggers’s wife feels the same way. She calls Chief Conway her angel, saying he was at the right place at the right time, and he and the emergency crews who responded saved two lives that day.

“Because of them, my heart keeps beating, because I have my man here, my husband of almost 47 years,” says Susan Jaggers, who says the ceremony brought her to tears because of how thankful she is.

“Without them, my heart would have been broken and there would have been two funerals,” she says.

And everybody we talked to at the ceremony believes in CPR, and thinks everybody should learn it.

“Anyone who lives or breathes better know CPR,” says Susan Jagger. “You never know. Bill saved my husband. If he hadn’t stepped in, where would my family be? Where would my husband be?”

“Our company is all gonna get trained in CPR and AED,” says Sargent. “I hope that it never happens again, but if it does I certainly won’t panic as much next time.”

And Chief Conway, who lives and breathes CPR and proudly shares how Clackamas Fire’s CPR campaign has taught more than 43,000 eighth-graders and their families and friends how to save a life, wants everyone to learn resuscitative techniques.

“Every minute someone in cardiac arrest is without CPR, the chances of survival decrease by 10 percent. A lot of stuff has to happen in those precious minutes,” says Conway. “Learn CPR, download the PulsePoint app, it’ll alert you if you’re close. And act!”


Hands-Only CPR

Clackamas Fire District #1 (CPR Classes and PulsePoint app)

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