Most of the time local heroes pass silently from one day to another, receiving little recognition for amazing deeds. But today is the exception. Today is the time to share with you the story of one very luck man from Heritage, Carlos Ruiz, and a mother and daughters from Wake Forest who saved his life after he dropped dead from total heart failure.
On January 19, 2014, Merrie Gough and her daughters decided to either go look at a local home for sale or go to the gym to do a bit of exercise.
Merrie lives in Wake Forest and is a CRNA, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She practices at Duke Medical Center in Durham.
Her daughter Danielle Gough is 25 and working as a dental assistant at Triangle Family Dentistry while waiting to hear about dental school admission for this fall.
Her other daughter Elisabeth Gough is 22, and was visiting from Greenville, NC where she lives today while at school. She’s a full-time nursing student and Elisabeth said this whole event re-confirmed her decision to enter the nursing field.
Purely by chance Merrie, Elisabeth, and Danielle made the fateful decision to drop by Anytime Fitness on Rogers road instead of driving by current homes for sale. They say it was an act of God, or maybe a little silent spiritual push that caused them to change their mind and destination that morning.
At the same time, Carlos Ruiz, 56, a document imaging division field engineer for Kodak Alaris, was busy with his Sunday morning routine, working out before heading to church as he always does.
As Carlos felt his feet rhythmically kerflumping on the moving treadmill in the empty upstairs gym he thought he wasn’t feeling well so he got off the treadmill and walked around the gym. Feeling a bit better he decided to continue with his regular routine and began running off calories again.
And that’s just about the last thing Carlos remembers before waking up in Wake County EMS 10 with lights and sirens on headed to the hospital under the amazing care of Paramedics Damon Thomas and Kendra Hicks.
You see, just as Merrie and her daughters walked into the Anytime Fitness gym, owned by Dede Davis, Carlos began to wobble on the treadmill. He made some moves to step off the machine and then collapsed on the floor, dying.
Carlos was laying on the floor in full cardiac failure. Turning around to see what the noise was, Merrie and her daughters immediately leapt into action.
Danielle ran to push the emergency alarm, Elisabeth called 911, and Mom did what she had to do to begin CPR.
The 911 call arrived at 10:19 AM and within the same minute Wake EMS 10 and Wake Forest Engine 3 had been dispatched. The firefighters arrived on the scene within 4 minutes.
When asked about the event, Captain Burton from Engine 3 was predictably humble when he said, “It was our honor to assist. We were just doing our job serving the community like we do every day.”
If you listen to the beginning of the 911 call above and you will hear the alarm that was blaring in the background that Elisabeth refers to in the video.
As Merrie continued chest compressions her talented daughters did all the right things. Danielle stopped the treadmill and at one time took over CPR. Daughter Elisabeth had her hands full with 911 and actually found some almost useless guys downstairs who thought the alarm was a drill and ignored it.
To his credit however, one of the guys she found did play an important role and located the AED installed in the gym. An AED, or Automated External Defibrillator, is a device that automatically assists in life threatening heart problems and alerts rescuers if the heart needs to be shocked.
An AED is designed to be used by regular people like you and me and they can be found in many commercial locations like corporate and government offices, shopping centres, airports, airplanes, restaurants, casinos, hotels, sports stadium, schools and universities, community centers, fitness centers, health clubs, theme parks, workplaces and any other location where people may congregate.
Usage studies have shown that even sixth-grade students without any prior experience can properly use the device within 90 seconds by following the attached instructions and verbal commands.
While Merrie is a highly trained nurse and it was a blessing to have her there as Carlos collapsed, it was also critical that the AED was eventually found, applied, and used.
Paramedic Damon Thomas said, “The patient would have been in big trouble without being shocked. The AED most likely played a big role in saving his life.” He added, “The mother and daughters who sprang into action were the true heroes that day. They knew what to do and took charge. I can’t praise them enough.”
Thomas and Hicks can often be found on duty at Wake EMS Station 10 in Wake Forest and regularly work to protect our community. You can read more about Station 10, here.
According to Jeffrey Hamerstein from Wake EMS, ” When someone has collapsed in cardiac arrest, seconds make the difference in survival. That person can’t help themselves. That person needs someone to step up and help them. Call us, and we’re on the way. But in those minutes before we get there, they need you to step up.
That’s why at Wake EMS we want people to learn hands only CPR, and we want people to use AEDs. CPR will continue blood circulation while the heart is stopped. An AED can immediately restore a natural heart beat under certain circumstances. The helper doesn’t have to know whether it’s the right situation for an AED. Just put it on and the AED knows what to do, and it will tell you what to do.”
The entire network of emergency responders took action that day as the Wake Forest Fire Department Engine 3 arrived ahead of Wake EMS. On arrival the trained firefighters took over chest compressions for the tired women and worked with them till EMS rolled through the door to transport Ruiz to the hospital.
Ruiz later had an aortic valve replacement to help remedy his risk of future cardiac failure. He was so proud of his new calf valve that he showed us the surgical wound like Superman.
Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with the Gough’s and was able to be there as Carlos met his rescuers for the first time. They all had a chance to see the security camera footage and talk about the event. You can see the video above.
Ruiz said the event changed his life and he is no longer going to take life for granted or sweat the small stuff so much. He feels he’s been given a second chance and he recognizes if the Gough’s had not turned into the gym that day instead of driving past, he’d be dead and buried now.
“Now I see things differently,” said Carlos. “What used to bother me doesn’t bother me anymore. I feel like there’s a destiny. That I was saved and spared for a reason and now I have to find in my journey what my purpose is in surviving.”
We of course think he was spared so he could read the Wake Forest News every day, but then again, maybe that’s not it.
Dede Davis, the gym owner said, “I got as emotional as they did watching the video, I don’t know if you could tell.” Having led a 20 year corporate career she one day decided she wanted to open her own business and do something to give back to the community.
“If all the components hadn’t been in place, if the right people hadn’t been here, if the right facility hadn’t been here, or if the alarms on the wall were not working, or if the AED wasn’t here, or if the batteries were dead, it could have been a very different story. I just feel a blessing for somehow being a part of helping save his life.” The AED had never been needed in the three years the gym had been opened. Not till that day.
Before everyone left the reunion, hugs were shared all around.