Reporter's Notebook: When a life hangs in the balance, reactions matter

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
Bruce Buchanan (left) went into cardiac arrest Sept. 16 while playing pickelball at Hilliard's Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park. Four bystanders, including ThisWeek Community News reporter Kevin Corvo (right), who was there conducting interviews for a story, leapt into action to help save his life.

In 1984, when I was an eighth-grader at Hilliard Middle School – what today is Scioto Darby Elementary School – I walked into the classroom of Ken Ash and saw an array of half mannequins on tables.

For many Hilliard alumni, Mr. Ash was a wrestling coach and a mentor for whom a high school memorial wrestling tournament is named.

A. Kevin Corvo

For me, whose school athletics experience was limited to my senior year on the Wildcats track team coached by the late John Hammond, Mr. Ash simply was my health-class teacher.

For several days in his class, we learned how to perform CPR, and although not as dramatic as the scenes that aired on the medical TV show "St. Elsewhere" that year, we executed chest compressions, mouth-to-mouth breaths and airway sweeps at precise ratios and frequencies, both as a two-person team and individually.

For those efforts, each student received a card embossed with the American Red Cross insignia that deemed us as proficient in CPR.

But not one second of that training was on my mind Sept. 16.

On that morning, I was at Hilliard's Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park to conduct interviews and take photos for a fun feature about senior citizens enjoying the park's new outdoor pickleball courts.

Related story:Pickleball picks up popularity on new courts in Hilliard

While chatting with one of the players about World War II aircraft and a veteran I had recently interviewed, Bruce Buchanan, 76, stepped off the court and said he felt dizzy after reaching to pick up a ball.

He walked to the sidelines and sat down but did not exhibit any symptoms that warranted an emergency call.

About 10 to 15 minutes later, that changed, as I joined three other bystanders, including his brother, Jim, to help save Buchanan's life as Norwich Township medics raced to the park.

If asked the day before, I would have responded that I don't know CPR or what “right” thing to do in a medical crisis.

But I learned just reacting is the right thing to do.

As I was walking toward the parking lot after finishing interviews, I saw Buchanan crumple to the ground, and several 911 calls were placed, including one from Buzzy Zorich, the first to dial, and from me.

Jim Buchanan began chest compressions with direction from another player, Peggy Green, who also was on a 911 call.

I remained on my 911 call until medics arrived, clearing Buchanan's airway with one hand while reporting to 911 dispatcher what was occurring moment to moment.

Before that day, I hadn’t heard the term “chain of life” as it applied to what we all doing in that moment, but it was evident when the city of Hilliard brought all of us and the Buchanan family together Oct. 13 for recognition by Hilliard City Council.

Bruce Buchanan (center) went into cardiac arrest Sept. 16 while playing pickelball at Hilliard's Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park. Four bystanders, including ThisWeek Community News reporter Kevin Corvo, who was there conducting interviews for a story, leapt into action to help save his life. They were recognized Oct. 13 by Hilliard City Council. Pictured (from left) are: Hilliard Division of Police Chief Robert Fisher, Peggy Green, Norwich Township Fire Department Capt. Jeff Evans, Buzzy Zorich, Buchanan, Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department director Ed Merritt, Corvo, Northwest Emergency Communications Center director Jay Somerville and Jim Buchanan.
Norwich Township Fire Department Capt. Jeff Evans (second from right) recognizes ThisWeek Community News reporter Kevin Corvo (left), Peggy Green, Buzzy Zorich and Jim Buchanan for their life-saving efforts when Bruce Buchanan (not pictured) went into cardiac arrest Sept. 16 while playing pickelball at Hilliard's Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park. They were recognized Oct. 13 by Hilliard City Council. Looking on are council member Les Carrier (background) and Northwest Emergency Communications Center director Jay Somerville (far right).

Jay Somerville, director of the Northwest Regional Emergency Communications Center, the Dublin-based emergency dispatching center for the Norwich Township Fire Department and several other agencies, said the “chain of life” begins with that first 911 call.

“Each caller provided dispatchers an accurate description of the patient’s condition along with the exact location of the emergency so medics could be quickly dispatched,” Somerville said.

Norwich Township fire Chief Jeff Warren reminded us that sudden cardiac incidents require bystander intervention.

“The difference in a patient’s life is often made prior to emergency-medical service arrival,” Warren said.

I took that lesson to heart, especially when we reunited with Buchanan less than a month later.

Buchanan is working toward a full recovery after about two weeks of hospitalization.

"I'm feeling a lot better and a little better every day," he said Oct. 22.

"I want to get back to the pickleball court, too."

Most in-person CPR and first-aid classes have been suspended because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but online classes are available, Warren said.

For more information, including when in-person classes resume, go to cpr.heart.org.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo