Calif. Man Survives Cardiac Arrest Thanks to Veteran Firefighter
May 12—When Tim Schoch took his normal walk to Starbucks, he never imagined that he might not make it out alive. However, what was supposed to be a relaxing Sunday stroll for a grande white mocha turned into a near-death experience for Schoch.
Thanks to the heroic actions of Lodi's Larry Vickers, a veteran with the Tracy Fire Department, and the efforts of local first responders, Schoch now has a second chance at life.
"I just wanted to thank him because if he wouldn't have been there, I wouldn't have made it," Schoch said of Vickers.
On April 15, Schoch stood in line at the Starbucks on Ham Lane. He was having a hard time catching his breath but wasn't too concerned. The next thing he remembers, he was waking up in St. Joseph's Hospital.
Schoch had suffered a heart attack and collapsed while in line, and Vickers immediately stepped in and began life-saving measures.
"They said I was dead when I hit the floor," Schoch said.
Vickers had stopped in Starbucks with his wife, and the two were on their way to Disneyland when Schoch collapsed at his feet.
Vickers said that if Schoch had been an inch closer he would have knocked him over. As soon as Schoch collapsed Vickers said he thought about his training.
"They said when I hit the floor he automatically started working on me, just doing compressions. Then he told his wife or somebody to call 911," Schoch said. "A relative was there, and they said he worked so hard on me, that he was sweating so bad, and he didn't stop working on me until the ambulance got there."
Vickers said it was his job to step in and save Schoch's life.
"You just go to work and you just keep on working until somebody else comes and takes your place," Vickers said. "When you do CPR and you have a man's life in your hands, it's not really an option to stop working -- you just keep working until somebody gets there to help you."
Shortly after Vickers began CPR, Lodi firefighters and EMTs arrived on scene and worked vigorously to save Schoch's life.
"We got the call that there was a man down, and as we were en route it got upgraded to a full arrest, "Lodi Fire Captain Shane Langone said. "When they tell us that our mindset changes on what we have to do when we get on scene."
Langone said he continued the compressions while he and fellow responders worked together to set up an airway and take the necessary precautions to save Schoch's life. They used a defibrillator to revive Schoch three times while in Starbucks.
"The fact that he was in a shockable rhythm, and he was able to be shocked, that was positive," Vickers said. "It's weird watching a person being shocked because you know what's happening, but in the same respect it was encouraging."
Langone said he felt relieved that they were able to get Schoch stable enough to get on the ambulance.
"He was still in grave condition," Langone said. "We do cycles of CPR because it's strenuous. Each one would take turns every two minutes. It just so happened that when it was time to get him on the gurney, it was my time to do the cycle of chest compressions, and I jumped on to the side of the gurney and rode it out to the ambulance."
While en route to the hospital Schoch had to be revived again and was revived a final time once he reached St. Joseph's Hospital and was rushed into surgery. While his heart was healthy, his main artery was 80 percent blocked, and doctors had to insert a stent to open it up.
When he came to in the hospital, the first person Schoch remembered seeing was a man named John who told him "welcome back to life" and informed him of what had transpired.
"I had no idea what happened or anything," he said. "By the time my wife and daughter got to St. Joseph's, I was already out of surgery and in intensive care."
Rescue personnel retrieved Schoch's wallet and found a contact number for his daughter Sara and contacted her while Schoch was on the way to the hospital. She and her husband frantically drove to her mother's house to pick her up and relay the terrifying news.
"I opened up the door, and she said 'get dressed, dad's had a heart attack. He's on his way to St. Joseph,'" Schoch's wife, Sandra, said. "She was crying. I was crying. I guess it really didn't sink in. It did but it didn't. It was kind of like unbelievable because he was in such good health, we thought, and there's no way of seeing a blocked artery."
Once they arrived at the hospital Schoch was just coming out of surgery. They were able to see him a few minutes before he was taken to the ICU.
"It was like an outer-body experience," Sandra said. "I couldn't believe this was happening to him," she said.
Schoch spent four days in the hospital, two of which were in intensive care.
"I want to thank everybody on 2 East (intensive care unit) at St. Joseph's because they were good in recovery, and my wife and daughter were taken such good care of," Schoch said. "All the nurses there were very nice. It's a really nice hospital to go to."
The next day Schoch and his wife reached out to the Lodi Fire Department to find out who had been involved in saving his life, and that's when he found out about Vickers.
"I was very thankful that the fireman was there," Sandra said overwhelmed with emotion. "He literally saved his life. The doctors said that Tim was a miracle because normally the artery that he had that was clogged is called the widowmaker. He's my husband's Earth angel now."
Vickers was very modest about his live-saving efforts and gave credit to the other emergency responders.
"It's not all me. We had Lodi Fire Department there and AMR was there. It was really a team effort," Vickers said. "For me it was just being at the right place at the right time, and it was a blessing to be able to be there and be able to help the man out."
When he got the call that Schoch made it through surgery, Vickers said he and his wife cried tears of joy for Schoch and his family.
Schoch said that everyone that responded acted heroically, but Vickers is his guardian angel.
The two were able to talk over the phone the day Schoch came home from the hospital, but the emotions were too overwhelming. They were finally able to meet in person Friday morning at the Starbucks where it all happened.
"Words can not describe it," Schoch said after meeting Vickers. "I knew right away when I walked in, and I saw him. I recognized him and his wife in the corner. Like my wife says, he's my Earth angel, and somebody sent him here that day to save my life. I can never repay him. I will always remember him for the rest of my life."
Vickers was just happy to have the opportunity to meet Schoch.
"Just to be able to see him walk in the door, and to sit across from him and have a conversation and talk about how he's doing and his family is truly a blessing," Vickers said.
Schoch is still recovering and, although his chest and ribs are a little sore from the compressions, he is glad to be alive. He plans to return to his job at Cardinal Glass in Galt very soon. After his heart attack, he realizes how important it is for people to move out of the way when they see an emergency vehicle coming down the street.
"When you hear sirens try to get out of the way because one minute can save somebody's life," Schoch said. "That could be your family members, your kids, your parents, anybody. If you don't get out of the way for them, they're not going to make it there to save somebody's life."