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Former Calif. paramedic to be honored for saving life

Lou Meyer performed CPR on a elderly man who went into cardiac arrest at a hair salon

By Joe Goldeen
The Record

STOCKTON, Calif. — Lou Meyer was working earlier this year in the office of the north Stockton hair salon he owns with his wife when a stylist came in seeking an aspirin for an ill customer. Meyer walked out into the salon and immediately knew that the customer needed more than an aspirin.

“He was semiconscious, slumped over and drenched in sweat. He went into cardiac arrest while sitting in the chair,” the 66-year-old Meyer said, drawing on the knowledge he had gained from 44 years in the emergency medical field as a paramedic and ambulance company executive.

Meyer quickly went into action, laying the customer, 62-year-old Bob Wirth, on the floor and beginning cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The rapid check compressions and breathing air into the patient’s lungs worked. In a situation where every minute counts, Wirth regained consciousness and began to breathe on his own.

For his lifesaving effort, Meyer whose paramedic license expired two decades ago — will receive the Civilian Award from the California Emergency Medical Services Authority during its annual awards ceremony Wednesday in San Francisco.

The awards were established in 2007 to honor and recognize exceptional acts and service while working as EMS certified or licensed personnel, administrators, educators, volunteers or - as in Meyer’s case - civilians within the EMS system.

Dr. Howard Backer, director of the state EMS agency, said in announcing the awards being presented to Meyer and 33 others: “These men and women epitomize the spirit and commitment to quality that embody these awards and deserve official recognition for their contributions in making California’s EMS system one of the best in the world.”

Wirth, who is now 63 and retired as a branch chief with the California Department of Water Resources, had a history of heart trouble going back more than 20 years. A regular customer at the Meyers’ Indulgence Hair Salon in the Hammer Ranch shopping center, he remembers little of that day last summer.

“I just got real dizzy and went to sleep, went out. When I woke up, I was on the floor and (Meyer) had done some compressions and I woke up and kept getting better from that day on,” Wirth said, thankful that fortune was looking down on him in the presence of both Meyer and a registered nurse who was getting her hair done at the same time that day.

“That was very fortunate on my part to have somebody there who knew what was going on and knew what to do about it. It’s hard to thank people when they save your life. What can you say?” Wirth learned soon after that he had a dangerous heart rhythm and ended up getting a pacemaker defibrillator implant. Today, he says of his health: “I’m fine.”

“This really shows the importance for victims that more people have the skills to know CPR so they can do something that will help,” Wirth said.

Meyer, a Vietnam War veteran who became a paramedic upon his return and worked his way up to become a senior vice president for Emergency Medical Services Corp., the parent company of American Medical Response, is well-known in Stockton in addition to his professional ties through his charitable positions as president of the board of Hospice of San Joaquin and on the Board of Trustees for O’Connor Woods Senior Living.

Long an advocate for training as many people as possible in “bystander CPR,” he was happy to report that Wirth’s family members have taken the training since the incident.

“Bystander CPR works, and everyone should take advantage of CPR classes offered by the Stockton Fire Department and American Medical Response,” he said. “My grandchildren are learning it in school.”

Copyright 2016 The Record