Cops save heart attack victim on el platform

Officers Ruiz, Bruno will receive departmental Life Saving award

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By BILL DWYER

It was just another workday morning for David Mausner, Oct. 28, as he ran up the steps of the Ridgeland Avenue Green Line Station, but it soon took a dramatic turn.

Mausner's rush to catch an arriving train was slowed by a woman who came rushing past him back down the stairs. When he reached the platform, he realized why she'd been hurrying.

"I saw a guy lying partially under the bench," Mausner recalled. "He had an abrasion on his forehead where he'd struck the platform." More ominously, the man was turning "purplish."

"Another guy said he'd been sitting on the bench when he toppled head first to the platform," Mausner recalled. He immediately called 911 for an ambulance as a CTA employee secured the immediate area.

Oak Park Officer Manuel Ruiz was on routine patrol in the area when the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center directed him to the Ridgeland station at 9:43 a.m. to help paramedics deal with an unconscious 54-year-old man. Officer Stan Bruno, who was patrolling an adjacent beat, heard the call and drove up behind Ruiz to assist.

"The call sounded bad," said Ruiz. As he arrived at the station with Bruno "half a step behind me," they saw that paramedics had yet to arrive. Bruno grabbed the defibrillator from his squad car and they rushed up to the platform.

They placed the device on the man, and when it told them he needed to be shocked, they charged the device and administered three charges.

"The second shock converted the man's heart to normal sinus rhythm," Deputy Fire Chief Mark Pugnaitis said. The quick and mindful action by the officers, he said, most likely saved his life.

"If the patient didn't get electric stimulation to his heart muscle within 5-10 minutes, he would have died," Pugnaitis said, noting that when a heart flatlines, there's a one percent chance of survival.

Mausner said the scene on the platform was like what you see on television-and not like it at all. Even after the shocks were administered, he said, the man appeared dead.

"His body jumped when they shocked him, but he didn't respond," Mausner recalled. "Nobody said his heartbeat's back. He appeared to be lifeless."

Paramedics arrived soon after, stabilized the man and took him to West Suburban Hospital. He spent the rest of the week there, and is now home "doing wonderfully," Pugnaitis said, and expected to make a full recovery.

This marks the third time in five years Oak Park police have used a defibrillator to revive a heart attack victim, Pugnaitis noted, and the eighth time since 2003 someone in the village has been saved with a defibrillator.

"I hope an incident like this proves the value of [automatic electronic defibrillators]," he said. "This is the reason we have AEDs in all police cars."

Asked how they felt about being heroes, both cops shrugged somewhat uncomfortably and said they were only doing what they were trained to do in yearly refresher courses.

"Right place, right time, right equipment," said Ruiz. "Anybody on the shift would have done the same thing."

"Your training kicks in, so you don't have to think about it," said Bruno, who said they both were worried about their patient after he left for the hospital and later stopped by to check up on him.

The man's recovery was more than a pleasant surprise to Mausner, who left the platform thinking he'd watched a man die. He caught the next eastbound train after watching Ruiz and Bruno work to revive him.

"I did a Google search to find the name of the man who'd died," he said. Instead he came across an article at WednesdayJournalOnline.com detailing the rescue.

"I was absolutely astounded," he said. He was also completely impressed with the officers' calm and focus during the emergency.

"They were real professional, real business-like," he said. "They knew precisely how to deal with the situation. There was no hesitation, no wasted actions at all. The guy survived because those cops knew their jobs, knew precisely what to do."

Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley said, "I'm very proud, very proud of them," he said. "It just goes to show that training is important. You can never be too prepared. Every year we revisit this subject," he added. "You never know when you'll have to take the [defibrillator] box out of the squad."

Tanksley and his deputy chiefs have already met with the two officers.

"You could see it in their eyes," he said. "They appreciated the praise and recognized they'd done something important."

Both Bruno and Ruiz, though expressing some discomfort at the attention, will have to undergo a bit more public praise in the next two weeks-they're scheduled to be presented with the police department's Life Saving awards at the next village board meeting.

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