It was an otherwise typical afternoon at Carson-based Owens Precision Manufacturing for 49-year-old machine operator Bret Bumgarner.
Then, he suddenly collapsed at his work station.
He was suffering a massive heart attack.
"It's like they say - time just stopped," said co-worker Evelyn Arana, who said she was busy in the company's front office when she heard the commotion on Tuesday, April 22. "Cory (Baltazar, the company's operations manager) came in and called out for everyone to be calm. He had someone call 911 and then he took over.
"He started CPR and we stood there, watching, hoping everything would be OK."
Baltazar, a 15-year employee of the company, said he "didn't think" that day - he simply reacted.
"I've known CPR since the '70s," he said. "It's something you learn and you keep up - but, what is it, something like 90 percent of the people who know it never use it. Well, I guess my number was up."
Earlier this month, the American Heart Association announced that "hands-only" CPR is just as effective as conventional CPR (hand compressions and mouth-to-mouth), which organization officials and doctors said they hoped would help encourage more people to perform CPR in emergency situations.
"The bottom line is, nationally there's a 5- or 6-percent rate of cardiac arrest," said Dr. Charles Sand, former president of the American Heart Association, "and the biggest reason is that CPR is not done. Only about 30 percent of people get CPR."
But Baltazar's reaction to give full CPR during the incident was more "instinctual than anything else," he said.
"I think if you worry about making a mistake you're probably never going to use what you learn," he said. "The bottom line was he wasn't breathing."
Baltazar said he grabbed his CPR card from his office, stretched his co-worker out, cleared his throat - and started giving Bumgarner CPR.
"You just go into a state of mind. If you're standing there thinking 'I should do something' you probably aren't going to. It was just a reaction," Baltazar said.
Within minutes, Arana, who works in the company's accounts payable department, said a Highway Patrolman arrived, followed by paramedics.
It was a bit harrowing, as crews struggled to revive Bumgarner, his co-worker said. When Bumgarner stopped breathing a second time, Baltazar said, "it scared the hell out of me.
"I started screaming at him and probably scared everyone I work with - I said 'c'mon Bret, you gotta help me here.' I was yelling at him, but he could hear me - he responded."
Bret's wife, Patty, who was at their Dayton home when she got the call that her husband had collapsed, said this week her husband owes his life to Baltazar.
"I was real surprised to hear that someone had done something," she said. "What happened that day, I'm not exactly sure - but Cory saved (Bret's) life.
"The (paramedics) and doctors told me usually a person in Bret's shape never makes it to the hospital alive. A lot of people these days don't want to touch nobody. They don't want to get sued."
Though Bumgarner underwent heart surgery and had a pair of stents put in his left artery last week, he developed pneumonia in post-op and is still at the Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center intensive-care unit, in critical condition, Patty said.
"They're going to try to get him off the ventilator next week," she said.
"My goal is to just see him back at work," Baltazar said. "That's my reward."
A quick look at CPR
About 310,000 people in the United States die each year from cardiac arrest, according to the American Heart Association. Chances of survival decrease between 7- and 10-percent each minute without effective CPR.
The new recommendation of Hands-Only CPR is an update to the "2005 American Heart Association Guidelines for CPR and ECC", which previously said compression-only CPR should only be used if bystanders are unwilling or unable to deliver rescue breaths.
Evidence from three studies in 2007 revealed no negative impact from Hands-Only CPR compared with conventional CPR.
The body slows down when the heart stops, so the bloodstream usually has enough oxygen to maintain cell life for five or six minutes after the heart has stopped beating.
The American Heart Association recommends conventional CPR training.
Hands-Only CPR should not be used on infants, children, or people whose cardiac arrest is from respiratory causes such as drug overdose or near drowning.
To learn more about Hands-Only CPR or where to take CPR classes, visit www.americanheart.org
You Can Help
To find out how to help the Bumgarner family, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org