- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) - Elizabeth Schimpf received CPR training a number of times over the years for her profession.

An X-ray technician at Columbia Memorial Hospital in the orthopedics clinic, Schimpf says the training was always a good thing to have.

But she didn’t know how truly valuable it was until March 7 - the day she saved her husband’s life.

Schimpf and her husband, Greg, moved to Astoria more than two years ago. They have been married for 17 years, together for 26.

Greg Schimpf liked to drive his wife to work. But on that day, which started out like any other, their lives suddenly came to a halt.

“It was just a normal Friday morning,” she said. “But we go to leave for work, and he gets in the car, and he puts the key in the ignition, and then he just made a couple of horrible gasps and just slumped over sideways.

“I pushed him on the shoulder, and I said, ‘Knock it off, you’re scaring me,’ but his face was devoid of color and he was gone. It was creepy.”

Once the reality of what was happening hit Schimpf, she immediately went into “autopilot,” running over to the driver’s side door and pulling her beloved husband down on the ground.

She started performing hands-only CPR, the newest way CPR is taught, which no longer requires the breaths be administered, but instead quick compressions to the tune of “Stayin’ Alive.”

“It was out of the blue. He’s a healthy guy. He had an echocardiogram six months before,” she said. “I had my cellphone in my pocket, so when I ran around the car, I called 911, and I put it on speakerphone and threw the phone down. Then I just started compressions. Those were the last thing I learned a year and a half ago.

“It’s called hands only. And it worked.”

It was seven minutes before the Astoria Fire Department arrived. In the meantime, Schimpf continued compressions until her neighbor ran over and took over, performing them for the last couple of minutes. The fire department shocked Greg Schimpf with defibrillator paddles and whisked him away to Columbia Memorial Hospital. He was then lifeflighted to Oregon Health & Science University.

“It was really hard work,” she said. “And it felt like a really long time. The dispatcher was very helpful, too. She said go down two inches and come back up and keep it going. It felt like hours.

“He was blue until they shocked him. Then he instantly turned pink. There was no breathing, no respirations, no pulse, nothing. He was gone until then.”

Greg Schimpf, 63, suffered sudden cardiac arrest, often called sudden cardiac death, and 95 percent of victims die before reaching the hospital. The heart goes from a normal heart beat to a quivering rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.

At OHSU, he was iced down for 24 hours to below hypothermia to preserve his brain. He was warmed up for the next eight hours. After nine days, and a lot of tests, he came home.

“I’ve taken CPR probably since 1980 and I used it one time before in around 1990 when you did it with the breaths,” Elizabeth Schimpf said. “Now, it’s just hands only. … It was very empowering. And I am very enthusiastic about this. But I never thought I was going to be using it on my husband. I never thought I would be using it in such a traumatic way.”

She encourages everyone to get CPR training.

Now, life has returned to normal for the Schimpfs. Greg Schimpf is set to begin as the new administrator of the Astoria Moose Lodge; Elizabeth Schimpf continues to work at the hospital that gave her the tools to save the man she loves - her best friend.

___

Information from: The Daily Astorian, https://www.dailyastorian.com

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