Commander meets the man he saved
Appeal Staff Writer
Brian Cerny’s memory of what happened a week ago after he collapsed at the wheel of his truck does not include the fact that he died.
Carson City Sheriff’s Reserve Commander Tom Crawford’s only recollection is that when he reached the 42-year-old South Lake Tahoe carpenter, he was dead.
“Within 15 seconds of the radio dispatch, we were on scene,” said Crawford, the sheriff’s department’s volunteer reserve commander for the last four years.
When Crawford reached Cerny, whose truck had crashed into parked cars in the Gottschalk’s parking lot Dec. 15, he had no pulse and was not breathing. A passerby was holding his head stationary.
The two Samaritans, being careful not to disturb Cerny’s neck, pulled him from the wreckage and laid him on the ground.
Crawford said the fire department, stationed just two blocks away on Stewart Street, arrived on scene and began setting up their gear. The firefighters know he has his EMT certification, Crawford said, and one of them asked him to begin CPR.
Crawford quickly knelt beside Cerny’s lifeless body and began chest compressions.
He got a slight pulse back.
Paramedics loaded Cerny into the ambulance. As Crawford would tell him on Friday when the two met for the second time in Cerny’s room in the Cardiac Care Unit of Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center, “You got the fastest ride through Carson City ever!”
“Everything worked perfectly for this guy. We were Johnny on the spot, that’s pretty critical. Once you start compressions you get blood flow back to the brain, and the fire department had the bag valve mask, so they were getting oxygen going through him,” said Crawford, who admitted he’d never actually performed CPR on a person. “It was a collective effort, certainly the Sheriff’s Office can’t take credit for saving this guy’s life totally. We were able to assist so that gave the fire department one extra person to assist while they were doing other things.”
Doctors told Cerny’s family that the otherwise healthy, thin, active man suffered a heart attack. He has no history of heart problems and his 76-year-old father, Charles, who rushed from Northern California to be by his son’s side, said his own heart is just fine. Cerny’s niece Charlene and sister Brenda came up from Southern California, his brother Dale drove down from British Columbia, Canada.
And Cerny, still foggy from a two-day coma and the lack of sleep since he woke up, still does not quite comprehend that he died.
It took at least two times on Friday morning for Cerny to hear that he was dead, before he understood.
When it sank in, Cerny threw his hand to his face and his eyes welled with tears.
“This is too much to take,” he sighed.
Before Crawford and Cerny separated for the final time on Friday morning, Cerny reached up from his bed and shook Crawford’s hand.
“It was a pleasure meeting you,” he said.
“Same here,” Crawford replied.
“I hope not to see you again,” Cerny deadpanned.
The room erupted with laughter.
“I wouldn’t mind meeting you again, but just not in that situation,” said Crawford.
• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.