BRANDON, SD -
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people suffer cardiac arrest; their heart just stops. But luckily, CPR and something called an automated external defibrillator can bring them back to life.
It can happen anywhere: church, school, even work. It's a scenario one KELOLAND man doesn't remember but he's thankful to have his own lifesaving story.
It was less than a month ago, on May 26, when Jeff Ruth reported to work at Midwest Railcar Repair in Brandon. But in less than an hour and a half from reporting to work, he was on a helicopter being airlifted in cardiac arrest.
"That morning, you would have never thought it was going to happen,” Ruth said.
What happened that Wednesday changed the 54-year-old man's life.
“I bent down, started taping off and that's all I remember,” Ruth said.
Co-workers found his lifeless body slumped down against a railcar. After checking for a pulse, they sprung into action.
“All of a sudden, I guess they got on the radio. And everybody came flying out of the woodwork,” Ruth said.
“It was called out that Jeff was down,” co-worker Dan Triggs said.
Ruth's co-worker began CPR.
“There's a lot of adrenaline. Especially the first pump you give someone; hear and feel their ribs break,” Triggs said.
“He was pushing and he could feel the ribs breaking. And he got scared and was like, 'Whoa.' And the gentleman behind him said, 'Keep going. Don't stop; keep going,'” Ruth said.
Another co-worker, trained to use an AED, jumped in to help.
“It was just weird because he was lifeless. I mean he was gone,” Josh Vanderloo said.
Vanderloo says he's thankful to stand next to a man he helped bring back to life, after shocking Ruth six times.
“When he came in, it was just kinda surreal. Just had to look at him like wow. Ha, it's surreal kinda,” Vanderloo said.
Ruth's co-workers were able to get him stabilized until paramedics arrived.
But it wasn't until Ruth woke up two days later in the hospital that his wife let him know just how precious his life really is.
“I just kind of turned my head and I seen that look on her face. She goes, 'Welcome back.' I said, 'Do what?' I remember saying do what. And she says, 'Welcome back,' and I said, 'Where did I go?' And she said, 'You died.' I said, 'I did what?'" Ruth said.
“I didn't know what I would have done if he didn't make it,” wife Cyndy Ruth said.
Ruth says he doesn't know how to thank the men that saved his life but knows if it wasn't for CPR, and especially the AED, he wouldn't be able to share his story. And his heroes agree.
“Even here, we have one. I think we're looking to get two more. But absolutely. That this is, that right there is 100 percent proof that it's the real deal,” Vanderloo said.
If you're a business owner and want to purchase an AED, you can buy one through the Avera Heart Hospital
at cost for $1,000.
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