Quick-acting caddie saves golfer’s life with CPR before police, EMS arrive
The golfer, Steve Levin, has since had Lincolnwood Fire Department members conduct CPR training at his law firm and wants to raise public awareness of CPR
LINCOLNWOOD, Ill. — When Marsha Levin recollects Sept. 10, 2021, she can’t help but get choked up.
That was the day her husband of 48 years, Steve Levin, suffered a heart attack while on the 12th hole at Bryn Mawr Country Club in Lincolnwood.
“Is there anything worse than horrific?” she said trying to encapsulate how she felt that day. She remembers screaming in her son’s car on the way to the hospital because she was so overwhelmed with the news.
According to Levin, he remembers very little about the day itself. Over the past several months of recuperation, he said he’s been piecing together the timeline of events from those who were there on the golf course and those who participated in his lifesaving measures.
Levin collapsed on the green in the peripheral vision of then-20-year-old caddie Dylan Gainer. Gainer got his CPR certification in 2021, when he had aspirations to become a lifeguard.
“I didn’t recognize that it was a person falling, but what caught my attention is a bunch of people who started crowding around ... panicking,” he said. “I started running over. There was somebody attempting to do mouth-to-mouth. I told everyone, ‘I’m CPR-certified, let me help. I know what to do.’”
Gainer started doing chest compressions. Maybe 10 seconds in, Levin started to gasp, according to Gainer.
“It was just the best feeling in the world to see when you started gasping for air and I knew that I was doing the right thing. That was a really big motivator for me to keep going,” Gainer said. “I did it for maybe three or four minutes until the police got there.”
According to Lincolnwood firefighter/paramedic Ronald Schaefer, when he arrived at the scene, police were there taking over CPR and shocking Levin with their automated external defibrillator. Gainer’s actions, Levin says, are the reason why he is still here.
Paramedics rushed Levin to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, where doctors put three stents into his heart. He was transferred to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he remained for 30 days — 12 of them in a coma. Levin, who works as a malpractice attorney, admitted he’s probably healthier now than he’s ever been, given his change in diet and exercise routine.
“In retrospect, I had some blockage in my coronary arteries that probably should have been addressed earlier,” he said.
After his first surgery in September, he had a quadruple bypass in November, when an angiogram found more blockage. In between the surgeries, Levin and his family got to say thanks to Gainer and the Lincolnwood Fire Department for their efforts.
The village of Lincolnwood recognized Gainer and the first responders in November for their work helping save Levin.
Since then, Levin has been doing what he can to pay it forward. During this week’s National CPR and AED Awareness Week, he brought in Lincolnwood Fire Department members to conduct CPR training for employees at his practice. It’s training that his wife and four children and his friends have taken.
Levin is trying to come up with more ways to raise public awareness of CPR training. According to the American Red Cross, skill retention declines within a few months of initial training. According to the American Heart Association, less than 50% of people who experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest get the immediate help they need before professional help arrives. But if CPR is performed immediately, it can double or triple the chance of survival.
Schaefer said one should recertify every two years to stay current with new research, but one can choose to take the class more often. Per the Lincolnwood Fire Department’s Lt. Hayden Hooghkirk, it’s 30 compressions for two breaths, and two cycles of that is a cycle of CPR done over the course of two minutes.
“I feel that if I can get anyone to learn CPR, a life can be saved,” Levin said. “Out of all the public health measures that are debated, this is clear-cut. Everyone wants to get trained, it’s hard to get around to it, but it’s easily available to learn, and it will unquestionably save lives.”
Levin provided funds for Lincolnwood to purchase the Lund University Cardiopulmonary Assist System — a device that delivers CPR compressions without stopping. Hooghkirk said that when people get tired doing compressions, the strength of compressions can suffer. LUCAS is used while someone is doing manual CPR, freeing another medic’s hands to do other things like medications and IVs.
Levin is also paying for Gainer’s further education. Levin said it’s up to Gainer how far he’ll go. Levin may be the first life he’s saved, but it might not be his last. The 2022 Truman College graduate is considering a career in medicine after he completes his undergraduate education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“I was really happy knowing that I made a difference not only in your life but your whole family,” Gainer said.
While it was a scary event, Levin thinks his health crisis was a positive one. Family members got cardiac calcium tests (which scan calcium found on the heart, an indicator of chances of developing a heart attack in the future). Levin’s sister subsequently got stents put into her heart as well. And Marsha Levin said everyone has changed the way they do things since her husband’s heart attack.
“I’m not the same person that I was nine months ago. I don’t think any of us will ever be again,” she said. “Everyone went to a cardiologist, our whole family. Everyone had this coronary calcium score test done. Two of our kids are now on statins. They all have their own cardiologist, everyone’s changed their eating and drinking habits. And I’m making fish all the time now. You think in such a different way after something like this.”
Last month, one of Levin’s sons took him back out to the Bryn Mawr Country Club for the first time, Marsha Levin said. It wasn’t a serious game, just one that would introduce him back to the “scene of the crime,” she said.
“We were all texting them while they were out there, because we were so nervous,” she said. “Our son sent a picture of them on the 12th hole because it happened on the 12th hole. And one of my other kids was like, ‘We need a picture on the 13th hole,’” Marsha said Steve made it through and has since played in his first tournament.
“My case was a textbook case of the laypeople doing what they should do, the police doing what they should do, and the fire department doing what it should do,” Levin said. “Because of that, I’m here today.”
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