CPR and a little ESP keep Parachute couple together
She hadn’t taken a first aid class in years, but Barbara Arrowood remembered enough about CPR to save her husband’s life.
The Parachute woman is convinced more people could learn the basics of CPR, and save lives, if posters were hung in doctor’s offices, stores and post offices.
Last Thanksgiving, Barb and her husband Rob, who own Valley Detailing in Parachute, packed up their two youngest kids and drove to Iowa to visit Rob’s sisters.
This would be a Thanksgiving the Arrowoods would never forget.
When the family arrived in Rob’s hometown of Spencer, Iowa, the families decided to forego a traditional Turkey Day.
“We said the heck with a traditional Thanksgiving, we’ll go to a casino,” Barb said.
But before they left Spencer, Barb urged Rob, 42, to visit his parents’ graves.
“I told him, if you don’t do it now, it will be too late. He looked at me, and I said, `I don’t know where that came from,'” she said.
Rob did as she asked.
The next morning in their hotel room at the Jackpot Junction Casino, Rob woke up with a bit of heartburn.
“Rob always has heartburn. We’d had a few beers the night before and we were smoking, so I gave him an antacid,” Barb said.
Rob told her to go on down to breakfast and he’d catch up with her and the kids and his sisters.
About half-way through breakfast, something told Barb to go upstairs and check on Rob.
“I was walking back to the room and I heard in my mind, `Run, run really fast,'” she said. “I started to run.”
She slotted the keycard into the door and pushed it open.
“When I opened the door, there was Rob slumped over the bed. I said, `Rob!’ but I got no response,” Barb said. “I pushed his shoulder. I knew he was dead.”
Fighting down panic, she remembered her training as a volunteer emergency medical technician with the Glenwood Springs ambulance in the early 1980s.
Although she’d never given CPR during her tenure with the ambulance, she remembered her training from all those years ago: breathe and compress, breathe and compress.
She did as she’d been taught, not worrying about the exact position of her hands for the compressions of his chest, only knowing that whatever she did could save her husband’s life. After three minutes, she felt safe in leaving Rob for a moment and called the front desk for help.
“I knew he needed a defibrillator,” she said. A defibrillator is a machine that sends an electric charge through the body to restore the heart’s rhythm.
Soon after she called, paramedics showed up and took over. They loaded Rob on the ambulance, and Barb rode with them.
“They defibrillated him twice in the ambulance,” she said. They’d get a heartbeat, then it would quit. They repeated the procedure two more times, and once again in the emergency room, before his heart began to beat again.
In the emergency room a doctor approached Barb. His message was one she’d hear over and over again in the days ahead. Rob was unlikely to survive, and if he did, he’d likely have massive brain damage.
“You need to look at Rob,” the doctor said. “You need to decide if you want the kids to say good-bye.”
But Barb was not ready to admit defeat. She decided the kids shouldn’t see their dad up close, but they waved to him while he was in the ER. Soon he was loaded onto a helicopter and taken to North Memorial Hospital in Minneapolis.
The emergency room doctor there gave her more bad news. The left main artery that fed Rob’s heart was 95 percent blocked. Again, the doctor didn’t think he’d survive.
“I’m really sorry, we’ll send a priest in to talk to you,” he said.
Barb wouldn’t hear of it.
“I didn’t come this far to lose him,” she said. “I’m not going home without my husband.”
For three days, Rob remained in a coma. And it was another week before he was strong enough to have quadruple bypass surgery. Three days later he had a pacemaker installed.
Even though she knew he’d survive, Barb worried about the extent of his brain damage. She assured Rob’s cardiologist she’d done a good job with the CPR and that he would come out of this with heart and mind intact.
“I said, `I promise I didn’t mess it up. I gave him enough air. I didn’t mess it up,'” she told the doctor.
After the surgeries, the cardiologist told her if she’d been only half a minute later in giving Rob CPR, it would have been too late.
Rob and Barb returned to their home in Battlement Mesa shortly before Christmas. Since then, Rob has gained strength, and he is now back to work.
Barb is convinced that anyone, even without traditional CPR classes, can learn enough of the procedure to save a life, as she did.
“Our life is so enriched because of what happened,” she said. “I’m probably the luckiest woman in America. I would like someone else to have that feeling.”
To help Barb Arrowood with her CPR education effort, call her at (970) 285-2201.
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