“The people that helped me didn’t know each other, but they banded together like a seasoned team, and they saved my life. You come out of this thinking how valuable it is for us to be exposed to CPR training…you never know when response might be needed.”
- Russ Skoller
By Susan Tovey, American Red Cross volunteer
On June 29, 2021, my dear friend Russ traveled to Newport Beach to play in a pickleball tournament with his friend Mike. They played their first match (winning that match, I might add) and had two minutes to change courts and start playing their second round. Russ told Mike that he was feeling a bit dizzy, so he was going to sit down. Then, he said he needed to lay down for a minute. The referee said they had 15 seconds remaining to start the next match. Mike extended his hand towards Russ and said, “Come on Russ, we’ve got to get going.”
But Russ didn’t respond.
Mike looked at Russ and his face was pale, and his eyes were rolled back into his head. As a long-time friend, Mike knew Russ had experienced four prior cardiac events, so he started screaming: “Cardiac patient, cardiac patient!” while he began to administer CPR.
Thankfully there was a player who was also a retired firefighter/paramedic on the next court. He came over and relieved Mike, helping to administer chest compressions. Still, Russ was not breathing. “We need an AED!” he yelled. Suddenly, a woman ran towards him with an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator).
The woman attached the AED pads onto Russ’ lifeless body and issued the initial shock. Mike saw Russ’ body come about six inches off the ground, but still, he was not breathing. So, they continued administering CPR, and on the third compression, Mike heard a loud gasping breath.
Russ was breathing.
He was soon transported to the hospital for further treatment. Russ is now recovered and is using his experience to inspire others to receive CPR, AED and first aid training.
“The people that helped me didn’t know each other, but they banded together like a seasoned team, and they saved my life,” says Russ. “You come out of this thinking how valuable it is for us to be exposed to CPR training…you never know when response might be needed.”
Because of what happened to Russ, the community he lives in has requested American Red Cross First Aid, CPR and AED classes for residents, so they too can help if the need ever presents itself. Now, dozens of people in Russ’ community have been trained how to execute CPR and how to use an AED — and more classes are being added.
Russ knows firsthand the lifesaving importance of CPR and AED training. “It’s the most basic thing, and just to have that in your pocket is so important,” he says.
Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time without warning, as was the case for Russ. “I just felt very faint...it was very intense; unlike anything I had ever felt before. It was sudden and it was strong,” he says. For someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, every second counts. For each minute that defibrillation is delayed, the person’s chance for survival is reduced by about 10%.
Russ is thankful for those who jumped into action to save his life. “Life is good,” says Russ. “I get another shot.”
Red Cross training can give you the skills and confidence to act in an emergency. On average, more than 2.4 million people get trained in Red Cross First Aid, CPR and AED courses each year. To learn more about training courses near you, visit redcross.org/takeaclass for online and in-person courses, and download the free Red Cross First Aid app. Being trained can help you be prepared to make a lifesaving difference when it’s needed most.