It Takes a Team to Save a Life

From left, Dr. Danner, Daria Oller and Alison Krajewski

It was early afternoon on Good Friday, April 13, 2012, in University Park, Pa. Daria Oller, DPT, ATC, PT, CSCS, a PhD candidate in kinesiology for the athletic training and sports medicine at Pennsylvania State University (PSU), and Alison Krajewski, MS, ATC, athletic training instructor, were in their academic offices when a squash instructor came calling for help. The instructor had already called 9-1-1, but he knew the athletic trainers could help.

Oller rushed to the victim’s side and Krajewski followed with a breathing mask. The 72-year-old man had been down for about five minutes. There was no normal breathing, no pulse, and his skin was “a deep shade of purple.”

Oller gave two breaths and started compressions. “Although I was certified in CPR since middle school, this was the first time I gave CPR to a real person.”

Within minutes, two AEDs arrived at the victim’s side. Officer Mike Baker took over compressions, and Oller switched to breathing. Officer Randy Hoffman placed the AED electrode pads on the patient’s chest and shocked him four times. Dave King, EMT-P, and the EMS crew administered advanced life support and transported the patient to the local hospital, where he was treated with mild therapeutic hypothermia to preserve brain function. He later received a pacemaker/implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

The rescuers would soon learn that the victim was Ronald P. Danner, PhD, emeritus professor of chemical engineering—a faculty member for 45 years. Dr. Danner has no recollection of the time surrounding the event, which is a common experience among sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) survivors.

“I don’t even remember hitting the ground. But I understand that the way things fell in line was incredible. I’m doing great. They saved my life,” he said, referring to the entire team of rescuers.

The cause of the arrest has not been determined, though Danner suffered a myocardial infarction in 1978. Heart attacks are often precursors of SCA. Remarkably, even though Danner was “down quite a bit of time before they could get my pulse back,” he feels like his old self, a fact that he attributes in part to mild cooling.

“From what I understand, I was cooled for about 30 hours. My doctors say I’ve made a marvelous recovery. I came out of it with complete clarity. I feel perfectly normal,” says Danner.

Although Danner is now technically retired, he’s back to doing research and will teach a freshman chemical engineering seminar in the fall. He goes to cardiac rehab three times a week and hopes to return to playing squash soon.

On July 4th, Penn State celebrated its first Parade of Heroes. Danner had nominated Oller and Krajewski for the coveted award, and they were among a total of 19 nominees whose heroic actions were celebrated to great fanfare.

Mission & Vision

The mission of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) Foundation is to prevent death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest. The vision of the SCA Foundation is to increase awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and influence attitudinal and behavioral changes that will reduce mortality and morbidity from SCA.

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