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Heart attack survivor thanks first responders for saving his life

Aaron Britt was working late one night when he suffered a heart attack; firefighters and paramedics performed chest compressions to save him

By John Bays
Lodi News-Sentinel

LODI, Calif. — Aaron Britt was working late on Thursday, April 6, with his cousin David Britt at Taylored Auto Body on Maggio Circle in Lodi, painting a 1942 Packard automobile when Aaron suffered a heart attack.

Aaron doesn’t remember much from that night in April, and had to piece together the events based on what his cousin told him after the fact.

The cousins met with American Medical Response staff and members of the Lodi Fire Department on Thursday at Fire Station 1 to thank them for saving Aaron’s life.

“I vaguely remember painting the ’42 Packard, then nothing. Dave told me we were talking about KFC while I was getting the clear coat ready, but I remember having an out-of-body experience, watching myself falling to the ground. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital thinking, ‘Why am I here?” said Aaron.

David had just returned from his truck, which he had parked behind the shop instead of the front, where he usually parked, when he noticed Aaron laying on the ground, unresponsive.

“Heart attacks run in our family. Aaron’s father died from one, and mine had triple bypass surgery when he was in his 40s, so I immediately assumed the worst. I didn’t see any blood, so I pulled out my cell phone, which I almost never have on me when I’m working, and called 911,” said David.

Dispatcher Elise Dubitsky answered the call and directed David, who has had previous CPR training because he used to coach high school basketball, to begin chest compressions. David continued performing CPR as an AMR ambulance and Lodi Fire Engine 2032 were dispatched to the shop, where a friend and longtime customer directed the responders to the back of the building.

“It was hard to keep my wits about me with such an emotional connection, that’s my blood, we grew up together, and his daughter was born just three weeks before that. He would twitch at first, then five minutes of nothing. I was spent, I didn’t think he would make it, but I didn’t quit,” said David.

After three failed attempts with a defibrillator, Frank Pinaglia, an AMR paramedic, took over performing chest compressions. He was able to revive Aaron, who was technically dead due to a lack of pulse or brain activity, according to Capt. Michael Alegre of the Lodi Fire Department.

“Early access to CPR and defibrillators makes all the difference. Dave was a huge help, bystander CPR is not glamorous at all, nothing like on TV. It’s pretty ominous, but thanks to a new CPR protocol for the county, we see as many as two people a week walk out of hospitals after suffering cardiac arrest,” said Alegre.

“Frank really parted the waters to save Aaron’s life, he pumped so hard he almost folded Aaron in half, his feet nearly touched his head,” said David.

Pinaglia’s chest compressions were so powerful that they cracked Aaron’s sternum, but they did save his life. Aaron was taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, where he remained sedated for two days, according to David.

“A lot of little things were done well. Everybody played their role, and it’s nice to see the outcome. I’m proud to be a part of this team,” said Capt. Trevor Lambert of the Lodi Fire Department, one of the firefighters who responded that night.

“This was a convergence of a lot of things coming together, but I attribute most of the success to my aggressive CPR,” said Pinaglia.

“Not many times do we get to see the people who call 911, but it’s good to see a success story. I’d like to thank David for maintaining his composure and following directions under such stressful circumstances,” said Dubitsky.

Aaron, a Christian, attributes much of the success to God, who he feels gave the team the intelligence and will to save his life.

“People in church would say to me, ‘It’s good to see you,” to which I’d reply, ‘I’d rather be seen than viewed.’ And you all didn’t just save my life, but my daughter, Lilly, who I’m sure would like to thank you,” said Aaron, holding up his infant daughter with pride.

Copyright 2017 Lodi News-Sentinel