Their first contact was in a moment of panic: A woman called 911and the dispatcher on the other end calmly walked her through how to perform CPR -- saving her husband's life.
It was quite a story and Friday night, Michelle Waldron and her husband got to thank that dispatcher. Until now, they'd only heard each other's voices over the phone and under a great deal of stress. Their second encounter was all smiles, hugs, and even a few tears.
It was Pinellas 911 Operator Laura Gerczak's first time seeing Alan Waldron face-to-face, the man she helped save back in October, when she guided his wife Michelle through CPR.
"If it wasn't for you… I didn't know what to do," said Michelle to Laura tearfully.
Michelle was trained in CPR but never had to use it before.
"You tilt the head back, one hand on the airway, one hand on the forehead, one hand under the neck, get the airway all the way open and then you listen for breaths, if nothing's heard, then we move on to chest compressions," said Gerczak.
She instructed Michelle to do 600 chest compressions!
"Do it 600 times or until help can get there to take over," Gerczak said.
"I don't think probably a lot of people let you know that you really helped them," said Waldron gratefully. "You saved his life."
They hadn't been asleep but a few hours.
"I was in the bed and he started gasping for air," Michelle said.
"A couple breaths and then that's it, I'm out and there's no blood going to my brain," said Alan, grimly.
He never woke up and seemed to all but dead.
"She saw me die, and she's there alone and just to have someone else, that you can talk to, that can help you through this," said Waldron.
Experts say very few people who have this kind of sudden cardiac arrest live to tell about it.
"If it wasn't for my wife and 911, I wouldn't be here. It's as simple as that," Waldron said.
The 911 call lasted almost ten minutes.
"Seemed like it took forever you know?," said Michelle, wiping tears off her cheek. "But you kept me calm."
Gerczak never knew the outcome until she got a letter from the Waldrons.
"That's the worst part of our job, is that we do all that, we push that hard for people, we help people get through some of the worst times and we very rarely know what happens," Gerczak said.
Once the paramedics got there, they hung up the phone. It took three days to get Waldron stabilized at Largo Medical Center.
"So what do you tell your grandkids about this?" we asked the couple. "They call him Alan 2.0," they laughed. "My bionic parts now!"
They implanted a defibrillator in Alan to keep his heart rate steady.
His wife's birthday was three days after the attack, and she said it was the best gift she's ever gotten.
Their resolution as they approach the new year?
"Definitely, manage what could be stress in our lives and wake up every morning knowing it's another day given to me," Waldron said.
EMT's say you have a window of about four minutes to start giving and keep-up CPR. The key was keeping Waldron's heart pumping and blood moving to his brain, until emergency help could take over.
Gerczak by the way, was also named Public Safety Telecommunicator Of The Year by her peers all across the state of Florida, for another instance, not this one, involving a lady trapped in a fire.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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