8 Why CARES Matters: A Story of Survival from OHCA A Grateful Governor Tom Ridge Arrests Three Times and Lives to Tell About It By Rick and Jennifer Chap, Co-Founders BuddyCPR, OHCA survivor and TCPR lay rescuer In November 2017, Governor Tom Ridge experienced an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest while staying at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin, Texas. This January, Governor Ridge returned to the same hotel to give the keynote address at the 2019 National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) Annual Meeting. While there, he expressed his gratitude to the first responders from Austin Fire Department and Austin-Travis County EMS who saved his life. As a sudden cardiac arrest survivor, Ridge encourages fellow governors and legislators to recognize the lifesaving benefits of CARES to your state, your citizens, your communities and your loved ones. Governor Tom Ridge is grateful to well-trained EMS first responders who saved his life from cardiac arrest: ‘They never gave up on me’ Governor Tom Ridge, or “Gov” to his friends, is no stranger to public service. Safety and security are part of the DNA of this decorated soldier, six-term congressman, two-term governor, and most notably, the first Secretary of Homeland Security. Usually in the role of protecting others, this time it was he who needed help. November 16, 2017 was a day Gov. Ridge will never forget, although he has little memory of it. He was attending the Republican Governors’ Association meeting in Austin. On that morning, he awoke in his hotel room about 6:30, his normal time—but all was not normal. “I didn’t feel well… I felt different,” he reflects. “I felt a little pressure. I felt a little lethargic. I hadn’t experienced these sensations before.” Ridge grabbed his iPhone and began Googling symptoms. Initially dismissive until the pressure worsened, he found an online checklist. After mentally ticking all the boxes, he concluded, “I might be having a heart attack.” By now his symptoms were escalating rapidly. Struggling to get out of bed, he made it to his desk, called hotel reception for help, and the phone dropped to the floor. Within minutes, Ridge suffered an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). His heart stopped beating. He was not breathing. This patriot, statesman, husband, father, brother and beloved friend was clinically dead. First on the scene were Marriott employees and the EMT assigned to the conference. “They were able to get to me within probably a minute or two,” stresses Ridge. Like so many survivor stories, people at the scene took immediate action. Within three minutes of the call to 911, the Austin Fire Department crew arrived. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) to push oxygenated blood to his brain and use of an AED (automated external defibrillator) to shock his heart were almost immediate—critical actions required for survival. Ridge arrested three times prior to arriving at Dell Seton Medical Center—first in his hotel room, again in the elevator and once more in the hotel lobby. After the first resuscitation: “They asked me where I was… I’m pretty sure I said China,” he quips. In all, responders worked on the governor for more than an hour, taking turns pumping his chest. He shares with not even a hint of complaint they “broke a bunch of ribs” to keep him alive. “Without these highly competent, experienced, motivated personnel from the Austin-Travis County team… I’m dead,” he remarks matter-of-factly. “They treated me as if I was their father, their brother, their best friend, and yet I was a total stranger. And they brought the intensity they would bring to saving the life of a loved one… They never gave up on me.” ‘I woke up five days later’ In addition to first responders, Ridge credits his survival to the post cardiac arrest advanced care he received from incredible healthcare professionals at the hospital. “They told my wife ‘We have no idea what his cognitive state will be, what his physical state will be,’” he expresses with emotion the difficulties family members of OHCA victims face. “If truth be known, I was given last rites… And, trust me. I needed them.” He has no recollection of the event. “What I know is that I woke up five days later hooked up to everything imaginable,” he says. The first person who came to mind he reports unequivocally, “First person, my wife…”