CPR Hero: Visiting friend saves man having heart attack - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

CPR Hero: Visiting friend saves man having heart attack

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) – When it came down to saving a man suffering from cardiac arrest, every second counted.

On June 19th, 65-year-old Frans Vanleeuwen was having dinner at his Clairemont home with his wife and family friend, Whitney Pratt, when he slumped back on his chair gasping – a clear sign something was wrong.

Vanleeuwen lives just minutes from Fire Station 36, and even though firefighters were able to arrive quickly, they said if not for Frans’ friend, he likely would not be alive today.

Whitney called 911 but as they waited for crews arrive, she started to perform CPR – relying solely on a class she took 15 years ago. A crew from Station 36 arrived within two minutes and took over – not knowing if Frans would be saved.

“If someone told me this happened to me – it’s like no, unbelievable. It’s impossible. I am extremely grateful,” said Fran.

Santiago Reccia with San Diego Fire and Rescue said when they arrived, Frans “was without a pulse, meaning he did not have a pulse and he was not breathing on his own.”

Even after arriving at the hospital, things looked bleak. Whitney recalled the chaplain reading Frans his last rites.

“We sang 'Amazing Grace' and were waiting for him to pass and it was only then he started gasping. He started opening his eyes and then he could squeeze the doctor’s hand. It was pretty unreal,” said Whitney. 

Five months later, Frans is slowly regaining his strength back – something that may not have been possible without Whitney’s help.

“Each day is like a new landmark,” said Frans.

Officials hope Frans story will serve as reminder to people to learn CPR – the rule of thumb is "no, no, go": no breathing, no response, start pumping.

On Monday, Whitney and Station 36 crew members were presented with awards – acknowledging what they did. Both pointed to each other as being heroes.

“If it was not for them, I would not be here – that is for sure,” said Frans.

Frans’ son is also a San Diego firefighter who works at a different station but the firefighters on duty that day knew him and said it added more emotion to an already stressful situation.

The department does offer free classes to those who wish to learn CPR.

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