Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Red Cross Honors Life-Saving Heroes

by Janet Koelling

On a sunny summer day in Lakewood, four everyday people proved that every second matters, and that ordinary people can become heroes during those seconds.

The story began on July 25, at Bear Creek Lake Park in Lakewood. After water skiing on the lake, a park visitor returned to the dock. When he exited the boat and walked to the shore, he fell face first onto the deck, suffering a massive heart attack.

Brian Kakac and JC Pritchard were nearby and witnessed the collapse. Trained in CPR, both men leapt into action, rolled the visitor onto his back and checked his vital signs. Finding no pulse, Brian immediately started compressions, while bystander Liz Funk called 911.

“I had the dispatch person on the phone with me and she immediately told me to be ready for a long haul that we were going to perform 600 compressions – on her count," Liz recalled. "And she started a cadence with the count, so I put my phone on speaker.”

Parks Supervisor Andrew Sprafke
Parks Supervisor Andrew Sprafke received the 911 emergency dispatch and responded to the scene with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

“I was only about two minutes from the ski school, so I got there pretty quickly," Drew said. "I arrived on-scene and very happily for me, observed two bystanders performing CPR on the patient – which is something we don’t always see.”

Sprafke administered the AED, which prompted four shocks. Kakac and Pritchard continued CPR until the ambulance arrived.

“We kept going for quite a long time," Kacak recalled, estimating that they performed CPR for 13-14 minutes. "When he left, we thought he was dead.”

On the ambulance, the patient was placed on oxygen and administered additional shocks. Five minutes later, the fire chief called and told the rescue team he had a pulse and his heart was beating. Recalling the event, Kakac added, “It’s not a day that we like to remember, but we are very grateful that he is still with us today.”

As a professional rescuer and long-time Red Cross first aid and CPR instructor, Sprafke is impressed that bystanders would start administering CPR, saying, “To be willing do the right thing, and do it correctly is a huge plus. It’s what saved the life of this gentleman.”

According to cardiac specialists, patients who suffer this type of massive heart attack have a survival rate of 3%. All involved helped saved the patient’s life.

Sprafke added, “I was an EMT for nine years. This situation wasn’t unexpected. Nevertheless, there was high adrenaline and stress. It is rewarding to contribute to an effort that enabled the patient to walk out of the hospital several weeks later.”

Andrew Sprafke, Brian Kakac, JC Pritchard, and Liz Funk will be honored for their lifesaving heroism at the Red Cross Heroes Soiree on Friday, Feb. 26. The event is sold out, but we encourage you to read about the heroes we will be honoring, share their stories, and support the Red Cross by making a donation or attending the Heroes Soiree After Party, which is open to the general public.

The Red Cross trains an average of four million people every year in first aid, CPR and AED skills. Find out more about training options and sign up for training at

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