Story last updated at 5/6/2009 - 10:46 am
JUNEAU - On the morning of April 21, Ryan O'Meara was running late for work. He called his co-worker and carpool partner, Robert Canepa, to inform him of the delay. Though O'Meara encouraged Canepa to go on to work without him, Canepa said he would wait as well. Little did they know that their delay would significantly change the course of events that day.
By the time the two men were on the road, they were quite a bit out of their normal routine. They drove in O'Meara's truck even though it was Canepa's turn to drive and they disputed over which route to take to avoid school bus traffic.
They found themselves at the intersection of Mendenhall Loop Road and Stephen Richards Drive when traffic began to slow. A car was stopped in the middle of the intersection and a woman was trying to flag down other cars for help. O'Meara described her behavior as frantic and he said he was surprised to see other cars drive past her even though she was obviously in need of assistance.
The two men got out of their truck to investigate, and they found that the woman's husband had just suffered a heart attack. His skin had turned purple and he showed no signs of life. Luckily, Canepa and O'Meara are U.S. Coast Guard officers who have extensive training in CPR and emergency first response procedures. They took turns performing CPR until paramedics arrived.
"The time is skewed because it went by so fast," O'Meara said. "It seemed like it was a minute long and an hour long, but it was probably around five to eight minutes."
At one point, a mother and daughter also offered to help. The girl, who O'Meara estimated to be about 13 years old, said that she knew CPR and was willing to assist.
"I thought that was really cool because everybody else was driving past us," O'Meara said.
The man, Winston Neal Arnold, was a 61-year-old retired Navyman who now owes his life to his fellow servicemen. After being resuscitated, Arnold was taken to the hospital and eventually flown to Anchorage for further treatment.
"We went to the hospital afterwards to see how he was doing," O'Meara said. "We met (Arnold's) grandchildren and they said 'thank you' for saving their grandpa. It was pretty neat."
As of April 29, Arnold has been reported to be breathing on his own and is well on the road to recovery.
"His family gets to see him at least one more time," Canepa said. "That's the most rewarding part."
Libby Sterling may be reached at email@example.com.