For many, the holiday season is a time for reflection on the things that you are grateful for.
And this Thanksgiving, Pleasanton's Leeds family had plenty to be grateful for -- after Alan Leeds was saved by a group of quick-thinking good Samaritans and first responders when he suffered a sudden cardiac arrest while playing racquetball in June.
During a reunion event held at Leeds' Ruby Hill home on Nov. 20, his family joined the first responders and the group of bystanders who helped save his life to retell the story of Leeds' medical emergency and show their appreciation for one another.
"We rarely get to find out anything else beyond the patient's status when we drop them off at the ER, and that kind of blows people's minds because everything is so protected. So what I try to do, and hopefully we'll get to do more, is to try and make contact with families," Serena Johnson, an EMS captain at Falck ambulance group, said at the gathering. "We want to get the message out to the community because what you guys did is the reason that he is here, truly."
To show their appreciation for the bystanders and first responders, the Leeds family presented Alan's saviors with Heart Saver Hero award certificates from the American Heart Association. An accomplished public speaker and magician, Leeds also entertained attendees with a magic show.
"Thank you everyone. Without you, we wouldn't be here today. This is huge, this is huge, so thank you," said Lois Leeds, Alan's wife.
On June 18, after finishing up a game of racquetball with his friend Steve Reikes at the 24 Hour Fitness on Kitty Hawk Road in Livermore, Leeds went into cardiac arrest and collapsed on the floor.
Reikes quickly ran out to get help from personal trainer Wyatt Jayne while bystander Suzanne Arroyo began CPR -- using a method she was taught working as a lifeguard some years ago.
In the chain of survival that led to Leeds' recovery, Jayne took over CPR duties from Arroyo, before handing them onto his coworker Alex Macias, who after a while passed them onto bystander Nicole Spencer, a former paramedic who worked in Alameda County but now serves at the San Francisco Fire Department, who took charge with additional assistance provided by 24 Hour Fitness employee Mark Kinnard, who took notes throughout the incident.
While the group waited for paramedics, they also applied an automated external defibrillator (AED) to Leeds.
"It's the third time I've done CPR ... (And) the AED is easy. You just plug it in and follow the directions," Macias said with a chuckle. "When I was doing it, it's fine. It's afterward it gives me anxiety. I'm sweaty now just thinking about it."
"I like to joke we are the safest 24 Hour Fitness because we have former Marines and airmen and sailors and EMTs and paramedics and we have doctors in there all the time," Jayne added. "I hate the phrase 'the perfect storm,' but it really was a perfectly laid out situation."
The group was able to keep Leeds stable long enough for Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and Falck ambulance crews to arrive, who were able to bring him to urgent care.
First responders stressed that the quick thinking bystanders who got involved were the vital link in the chain of survival for Leeds, who, statistically speaking, would most likely not have survived without their involvement -- according to the American Heart Association, nearly 90% of cardiac arrests that occur in the U.S. are fatal.
"The biggest thing is that the public needs to get involved. In order for us to have a fighting chance to do the razzle dazzle, the public have to do some simple things: Call, get an AED, start CPR. I mean, I didn't save your life; these people did. We just came to pitch in," said Danielle Barnes, a paramedic who treated Leeds. "Essentially it starts with the public, and if the public doesn't get involved, we don't have a fighting chance."
Lois Leeds said she would like to host a CPR training course some time in the future, to help residents be more prepared to help save a life.
LPFD does not offer CPR training courses, however the American Red Cross provides a list of areas throughout the Bay Area where residents can train to become CPR certified. Learn more at www.redcross.org.