Off-Duty Respiratory Therapist Saves a Life

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Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento’s Dina Lewis used her advanced life support training and an AED to save a man’s life at her gym.

When Dina Lewis finished her 12-hour shift at Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento one Sunday last month, she had no idea there would be one more patient to care for that day — and that she would save his life.

It happened on September 6, after Lewis wrapped up her work as a respiratory therapist, and headed for her gym.

Once inside, she noticed some commotion and hurried over to find 58-year-old Bob Leonard of Elk Grove on the ground, unresponsive. He had just finished his weekly game of racquetball, and now he was having a heart attack. Lewis called for the gym’s Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

“I couldn’t feel a pulse, so I started chest compressions,” Lewis said. “I unpacked the AED and out came the pads. There was a picture on the pads so you know what to do.”

She also remembered her AED training from her Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Basic Life Support certifications. She was recertified by Kaiser Permanente in May 2014.

Dina Lewis poses for a photo with Bob Leonard (right) and his friend Shawn Jackson, who helped Lewis save Leonard’s life.

‘I Just Did What I Was Supposed to Do’

Lewis said she put the pads on Leonard’s chest and followed the AED’s voice prompt.

“It said, ‘No one touch the patient.’ It analyzed a rhythm. Then it said, ‘Shock advised. Push the flashing light.’ It gave him a shock. He got real stiff, and he wasn’t breathing. So I did chest compressions along with some help from Bob’s friend who was there at the gym with him. Then he woke up. “

According to Lewis, Leonard was alert and talking soon afterwards, much to everyone’s relief.

She estimates that she did about one minute of chest compressions before the shock, followed by a minute and a half of chest compressions after using the AED.

“I was in shock. I just went into a zone. Everyone kept saying around me, ‘You just saved someone’s life.’ I didn’t think about it that way. I just did what I was supposed to do.”

Quick Response Makes for Good Prognosis

Paramedics responded and transported Leonard to the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento cardiac catheterization laboratory, or cath lab. Interventional Cardiologist John Ko, MD, and a team of cardiovascular nurses and technicians opened a blocked artery and restored blood flow to Leonard’s heart using balloon angioplasty and a drug-eluting stent. Dr. Ko says Lewis’ quick work before Leonard got to the hospital made all the difference.

“Dina’s quick response saved his life and decreased any potential damage to vital organs. Mr. Leonard has a good prognosis going forward.”

‘She is My Angel’

Leonard said he tries to stay active amid a busy work schedule and exercises when he can. He described feeling very tired and not being able to catch his breath before his heart attack.

He is sharing his story for three reasons. One is to encourage people to take care of their health.

“When you are short of breath and you feel it’s age-related, it’s worth the time to check it out,” said Leonard. “I was given a second chance.”

Another is to encourage people to learn CPR.

But the third reason is the most heartfelt and personal — to say thank you to the person who saved his life.

“Dina deserves all the accolades in the world. I told her she is my angel.”

Discussion9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Way to go, Dina! This world needs more people like you. What a difference you have made in this man’s life. Thank you for responding so rapidly to this man’s needs. Please know how much you’re appreciated for your brave spirit and awesome skills.

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