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Legacy in the News: Heart attack survivor reunites with CPR heroes

The Times & KGW-Newschannel 8

July 17, 2014

Jim Balsiger is alive because his daughter didn't hesitate

A Tigard man was reunited Monday with the men and women who saved his life after he nearly died of cardiac arrest at his home during February's snowstorm.

When Jim Balsiger was wheeled into Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center that early day, he was in bad shape.

His heart had stopped while shoveling snow off his patio in Tigard. After being found by family members, his daughter Anna began performing CPR on him while firefighters from King City slowly made their way through ice and snow to render aid.

That CPR continued in the ambulance and at Meridian Park hospital.

After 45 minutes of nonstop compressions on his chest, doctors decided he wasn’t going to make it.

“Everybody was silent in the room when we stopped CPR,” said David Toovy, medical director at Meridian Park. “But when we stopped, instead of seeing that chaotic rhythm we expected, his heart went ‘beep, beep, beep,’ just like in the movies. He came back.”

On Monday, Balsiger and his family were reunited with the team of firefighters, doctors and nurses at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center who saved his life.

Lt. Matt Marioni with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue said Balsiger is alive today because one important person took immediate action to ensure emergency responders had a patient to aid.

“The main person in the chain was Jim’s daughter Anna. She had done all the right things and got him inside and to a place where we could work,” Marioni said.

TVF&R has led a push to get more people trained in hands-only CPR, teaching middle school students across the fire district the lifesaving skill and sharing the message of the importance of CPR at community gatherings and sporting events.

Every minute of CPR before paramedics arrive increases a patient’s chances of survival by 10 percent, fire district officials said.

“If you are willing to get in there and try, it really makes a difference,” Marioni said.

CPR is a tiring process, Toovy said, and 45 minutes of nonstop compressions takes a lot of dedication.

“Fantastic CPR occurred through the entire process — from when Anna started to the hospital,” Toovy told Balsiger. “It was hard, deep, fast and got good blood flow to your brain and vital organs.”

After his ordeal, Balsiger woke with five broken ribs from the constant CPR work of Anna, emergency crews and doctors.

“All the odds were against me,” he said on Monday. “But I think things turned out pretty well.”

Balsiger fought to stay alive.

“If I hit anyone, I’d like to personally say I’m sorry,” Balsiger told the crowd of medical professionals outside the hospital. “You do strange things when you don’t get oxygen to your brain.”

Balsiger doesn’t remember a lot from that day, he said. He recalls collapsing on his back patio and the sound of his wife telling him to fight in the ambulance ride to the hospital.

“My family willed me back that day,” Balsiger said. “It was because of all your efforts and doing your jobs to perfection, that is why I’m here now.”

Toovy said Balsiger’s story inspired the hospital’s staff.

“We see a lot patients like this, and we do our best for all of them, but they don’t all have the happy outcome like this,” he said. “This gives us inspiration to continue trying and continue educating the public that you’ve got to learn CPR and recognize that you’ve got to get started right away when something happens.

“Everyone in the chain of survival is necessary in order to have wonderful outcomes like yours.”

To read the original article, click here.

To watch the story on KGW, click here.

For questions, contact Ashley Stanford Cone.