While driving home to Coupeville along State Highway 525 one afternoon last month, Chris Tyau could see a bike rider climbing a hill in the distance and felt a strange premonition.
“Something just told me to keep an eye on him,” Tyau said. “Right when I had that weird thought, I just saw him fall over.”
Tyau’s mind raced. He hoped the man’s bike had possibly struck a pothole, and he would dust himself off and be OK. But as Tyau approached and saw no movement from the man lying in the shoulder, he got out of his truck and recognized the situation was far more serious.
“I shook his shoulders and said, ‘Hey, are you all right?’ and just got that thousand-yard stare,” Tyau said. “He wasn’t responding. When I noticed he wasn’t breathing or responding, I just called 911 right there.”
The actions taken by Tyau over the precious next few minutes might’ve saved the man’s life.
With all signs pointing to sudden cardiac arrest, Tyau was asked by the operator on the other line if he would be willing to do hands-only CPR. Tyau complied and was able to do chest compressions before Diane Paul, a passerby better trained in life-saving techniques, joined the effort until emergency responders arrived.
The Aug. 23 incident, which happened just north of Greenbank, demonstrated the importance of providing immediate CPR.
Tyau and Paul, who also lives in Coupeville, were recognized last week by Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue at the agency’s monthly fire commissioners meeting.
They both had received CPR training; Tyau while in the Navy, and Paul as a former emergency medical technician at Central Whidbey Fire.
Since 2008, the American Heart Association has simplified the method, promoting a hands-only approach for bystanders that has resulted in much greater survivability for those suffering cardiac arrest.
Almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die, according to the American Heart Association.
Immediate CPR can double or triple the chance of survival, Central Whidbey Fire Chief Ed Hartin said.
And that’s why his department has been teaching the hands-only method to citizens in the community since 2010, when the agency became an early adopter of the practice.
“Without CPR, the chance of survival goes down 1 percent every six seconds,” Hartin said.
“We don’t know what the outcome would have been if the individuals that jumped in and went to work weren’t there.”
The newer method for bystanders calls for rapid, deep chest compressions —110 per minute —that are designed to keep oxygenated blood circulating in the body, particularly to the brain. That’s a departure from the old way that combined chest compressions with rescue breaths to the mouth, which was a deterrent to many.
Hartin said it takes 10 minutes to learn how to do hands-only CPR.
“We’ll go any place in the district to teach people how to do that,” he said. “We’ll come to your house. We’ll meet you at Front and Main. We’ll go anyplace.”
Tyau and Paul were joined by others in their efforts to save the Greenbank man who was out for a bike ride.
Central Whidbey Fire personnel and WhidbeyHealth paramedics also responded to provide more advanced life support, including use of a defibrillator, and he was transported to a hospital.
“In this case, all of the pieces of the puzzle came together in a way that had a positive outcome,” Hartin said.
“We could have arrived and done the best we could, which would be pretty good. WhidbeyHealth paramedics could have arrived and also done the best they could, which also is pretty good.
“But if we didn’t have the help from the people in the back of the room (Tyau and Paul), there’s no guarantee the outcome would have been a positive one.”
To receive hands-only CPR training, call Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue at 360-678-3602.