On the morning of Jan. 4, Heidi Walker-Seger and her husband were laying in bed talking.
Then John Seger suddenly went stiff and quiet. When Heidi Walker-Seger turned on the light, his face was purple and he wasn’t breathing.
Walker-Seger, a pediatric nurse, realized that her husband was having a heart attack. So she called 911 and began chest compressions. She kept performing CPR until South Bay Fire Department EMTs arrived several minutes later. Lacey Fire District 3 paramedics arrived several minutes after that.
“I was just pressing on his chest as hard and as fast as I could,” Heidi Walker-Seger recalled Friday.
John Seger said he doesn’t remember the heart attack — or his wife performing CPR. But he said he’s grateful for her medical training, and for the medics who stabilized him and transported him to the hospital.
By performing CPR immediately, Heidi Walker-Seger likely saved her husband’s life, said Karen Weiss, a firefighter and paramedic for Lacey Fire District 3.
Weiss said the high survival rate locally is largely the result of work done by Medic One, local fire departments and Providence St. Peter Hospital, who have worked methodically to tweak their protocols to improve patient outcomes. It’s common practice for medics to stabilize patients before transporting them, and to send test results to doctors while en route.
Medics are then able to bypass the emergency room once they arrive at the hospital, Weiss said.
However, while Thurston County is outperforming much of the nation when it comes to cardiac patient survival, those numbers could still be improved through increased CPR awareness and training, Weiss said.
“The whole message is that none of this will work unless we can get citizens to do CPR,” Weiss said.
Medic One offers free CPR classes to all Thurston County residents. Times and locations of classes vary, and participants must register in advance. To register or learn more, call 360-704-2780.
Weiss said John Seger and Heidi Walker-Seger are a perfect example of how citizen awareness and medical resources can work together.
On Friday morning, for the first time since Jan. 4, the couple met with the medics who helped save John Seger’s life. The couple lives in the Pleasant Forest Camping Club, and worked with Weiss to set up a CPR awareness event in the community’s clubhouse.
Derek Hall, of the South Bay Fire Department, was one of the first medics to arrive at the couple’s fifth wheel trailer following John Seger’s heart attack. He said that during the eight years he’s worked full time as an EMT and firefighter, he has encountered an increasing number of civilians performing CPR in cardiac arrest cases.
He said that Heidi Walker-Seger went above what most civilians do: She helped open John Seger’s airway, and helped him breathe with a bag valve mask.
Helping patients breathe isn’t the norm in CPR these days. Experts urge people to focus solely on chest compressions. The compressions should be delivered to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees.
“Usually there are lay people standing around and they aren’t much help,” Hall said. “But it was really clear that Heidi knew what she was doing.”
She helped the South Bay team until Lacey Fire District 3 paramedics arrived.
John Seger was transported to Providence St. Peter Hospital, where doctors placed three stents. He was released a week later.
Now, John Seger says he feels good.
“It’s all thanks to these guys, and to Heidi,” John Seger said. “She really knew what she was doing.”