3 minute readHealth & Safety

How CPR Saved My Life

Christine standing with Frank and Mark.
Christine with Frank (left) and Mark (middle) who both performed CPR to help save her life.

On Saturday, April 7, 2018, I went to White Plains beach to meet my friends as I usually do every weekend. We surf or fish in the morning and then BBQ and hang out for the rest of the day. The day started out as it usually does, with the only remarkable event being that I did not eat breakfast and was hungry that morning. My friends Mark and Dann and I decided to fish because there wasn’t much surf that day. The three of us walked down the beach and fished for about an hour and then returned to the parking lot where all of our other friends had congregated. For the next hour or so, we hung out with our friends as a small group of us decided where to go eat since we still hadn’t eaten breakfast. Finally, a restaurant was chosen and my friends and I started to say goodbye to our friends. This is the last part of the story I remember. The remainder of the story was recounted to me by my friends.

My Accident

The last friend I said goodbye to was Jill. Jill was standing by my car, so after I said my goodbyes, I would have gotten in my car and headed to the restaurant. Instead, I hugged Jill and then blacked out. When I blacked out, I fell over and the first part of my body to strike the ground was the right side of my head, just above my ear. The impact with the ground was hard enough to interrupt the body signals that regulate my heartbeat. In essence, the impact was hard enough to stop my heart.

Two of my friends rushed to my aid. Mark Kam, a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines, and Bob Heffelfinger, a civilian government employee, began performing CPR. Bob then realized he wasn’t comfortable performing it, so he stood up and yelled “Somebody Help!”

While at his car putting away his surfboard and fishing equipment, Frank Asuncion, a retired welder from the shipyard at Pearl Harbor, heard Bob’s call and rushed to my aid. Together, Mark and Frank performed CPR, and at this point, I was told I was blue and hadn’t been breathing for approximately three minutes. At some point, I began to breathe again but was told I kept going in and out of consciousness. I remember waking up and seeing paramedics and firefighters hovering over me. One of them asked if I knew where I was and I replied, “I’m at White Plains Beach. Why am I on the ground?” After I answered, I blacked out again.

A Perfect Storm

The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital when they allowed Mark in to see me. At this point, about four hours had passed since my fall in the parking lot. The hospital performed many tests including a CT scan and an MRI. I also received three staples above my right ear for the crack in my skull and was diagnosed with a concussion. The hospital physicians didn’t know the cause of my accident and released me, instructing me to follow up with my primary care doctor. Mark took sick leave from work to help me during my recovery, and I stayed at his house since all of my family members live on the mainland in Pennsylvania. On Monday, Mark took me to my primary care doctor who then referred me to a neurologist and cardiologist. All tests from the neurologist and cardiologist found there was no evidence of heart or brain trouble. So my primary care doctor, using the results from all my tests and procedures, concluded that low blood sugar from not eating breakfast and dehydration caused me to black out, fall, and strike my head on the ground, which affected my heartbeat. In essence, it was a perfect storm of things that combined to cause a potentially deadly situation. But the right people were in the right place that morning and I am still here to share my story.

Bonded for Life

I did have an opportunity to really get to know the men who saved my life. Mark Kam and I had been friends for about two years prior to my accident. We are even closer friends now. He saved my life and he is my best friend. I had not met Frank prior to my accident, but a few days later, I went back to the beach where the accident occurred and spoke to the lifeguards who also assisted during my accident. I asked if they knew who the “other guy” was who helped me. At this point, I only knew his name was ‘Frank’ because it was written on the lifeguard’s report. I asked the head lifeguard, Marvin, if he could give my name and phone number to Frank and ask him to contact me if he was comfortable meeting.

 

Christine standing with Frank.

Later that day, Frank called me, and we spoke for the first time. We scheduled a time to meet at the beach later that week. It was an emotional reunion, and we were both in tears when we saw each other. During our reunion, we found out that we share a common interest: fishing! So, Frank and I have fished together a few times since my accident, and we continue to keep in touch via texts and phone calls. Frank texts me on the seventh day of each month to recognize another month of my new life.

Learn Lifesaving Skills

Register for a Red Cross CPR course today at https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr to learn lifesaving skills. You never know when you’ll need them.

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