Dayton man rescued by co-worker's CPR returns to job

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Three weeks ago Tuesday, Dayton resident Bret Bumgarner left Carson-based Owens Precision Manufacturing feet first.

And most likely, he left his workplace that way, for the last time.

Bumgarner, 49, suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed at his work station at five minutes to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 22.

Co-workers said time stopped. They watched, ringed around Bumgarner in a semi-circle as the air went out of Bumgarner's lungs and his body went limp.

"It just wasn't real," said co-worker Evelyn Arana. "... Neither is today."

"Today" was Tuesday just minutes before 4 p.m.

Three weeks to the minute he collapsed, Bumgarner and his wife, Patty, pulled up to the east Carson warehouse, collectively breathed in, and walked through the building's main doors.

"Time has stopped again," Arana said. "You don't like to throw around the word 'miracle' - but here we are."

As he stepped into the manufacturing floor of his employer, Bumgarner bit his bottom lip and took a deep breath, turning his gaze toward the ground for a moment and collected himself.

Like three weeks ago, a throng of employees gathered around him. This time, they offered gentle hugs and congratulatory words to the man who, though temporarily aided by a cane, they thought would never see walk again.

"Well, you look good, that's a plus - you even lost a little weight," joked co-worker Michael Murphy. "It's just good to see you."

Company operations manager Cory Baltazar, whom many credit with saving Bumgarner's life, stood back patiently.

Baltazar waited for Bumgarner to say his hellos and get a little air. When the well-wishers began to disperse, Bumgarner gave a knowing nod to Baltazar, and then an embrace.

Baltazar used CPR to save Bumgarner's life.

As soon as Bumgarner collapsed, Baltazar reacted. 911 was called, and he knelt beside his co-worker of eight and a half years.

"It's like I said that day, you don't think about it - you just know it's something you've got to do," Baltazar said. "You just have to take action.

"I saw him there, and he was dead - literally dead. I'm just glad I could help. And today, watching him walk back in - that's my reward."

Baltazar, a 15-year employee, said he wasn't sure he'd ever see Bumgarner again. The day after the incident, "things changed" at the workplace, he said.

"I filled out a (report) of what happened," Baltazar said. "And then we had all the employees fill out emergency cards, with their medications, who knows CPR - things like that.

"...You never know who's going to take action, but you know, anywhere you work, these things can happen - any time. And now we all know firsthand what it means to be prepared."

"I'll tell you what," Bumgarner said. "I don't wish that experience on my worst enemy.... But, I'll tell you another thing - these people here, I'm just so lucky that I had them.

"I owe it all to 'em."

The Bumgarners didn't linger long; Brett, who was just released from the hospital Saturday, said summoning the energy to stop by work and see friends felt like "a day's work - maybe more."

Wife Patty said she was under strict doctor's orders to monitor her husband's activity.

"It's been hard to keep him still," she said. "He's been wanting to come back here as soon as he got out (of the hospital). I keep sayin' 'you have to wait, it's only been a couple days' - but he couldn't wait to get back - to see his friends; to thank Cory."

After being resuscitated twice by Baltazar and sustained by paramedics on the day of his heart attack, Bumgarner underwent heart surgery and had a pair of stents put in his left artery at Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center.

He later developed a post-operative case of pneumonia and was in the intensive-care unit for more than a week.

Tuesday, all that was behind him.

"I'm just very, very excited to be back here," Bumgarner said. "I held it dry for the most part - but a lot of emotion. A lot of emotion."

"We just got lucky," Baltazar said. "That's all. It's ironic that three weeks ago to this moment - he was dead.

"A little luck and a little help. That can go a long way."

• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at apridgen@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

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