May 23, 2017 was Kalispell Police officer Jason Parce’s day off, but the fish weren’t biting on the Flathead River. Acting on a whim, he volunteered to pick up a shift.
It was a decision that likely saved a local man’s life.
May 23 was just another day for Kalispell resident Eric Brown. The Flathead Valley Community College custodian had gone to the gym before starting his afternoon shift. He checked in with his boss, Calvin Pippin, to go over daily tasks. The health conscious 56-year-old said he felt fine that day. But while walking to his truck, Brown went into cardiac arrest.
“I walked out the door, took a few steps out, and the last thing I remember thinking is, ‘I don’t have any control. I’m going down.’”
For the next 48 hours, Brown remembers nothing.
May 23 is a day Pippin won’t ever forget.
Pippin doesn’t usually follow his employees to the parking lot, but there was a flooring project going on at the college, and he kept remembering details to relay to Brown. “He was walking down the front of the building and was just about to get to his truck when he looked over his shoulder and completely went down,” Pippin said.
Pippin knelt down and saw Brown gasping for air. He promptly called 911 and began CPR.
“I could see his face turning colors. And I could see his gasps kind of going away.”
Officer Parce had just started his patrol when a call came in for man down. Parce was in the right place at the right time.
It took him only a minute to get to Brown after receiving the call. He found Brown on the ground and Pippin tending to him. Parce immediately took over administering CPR.
The officer relayed information to the Kalispell Fire Department as he continued to administer the life-saving compressions. “It was insane how fast he got there,” Pippin said. “And as soon as the paramedics arrived, he started telling them what they needed to know,”
The 12-year veteran police officer had been in these situations before. He knew exactly what needed to be done to save Brown’s life.
A few minutes later, lead paramedic Josh Pipolo and his crew arrived in a Kalispell Fire Department ambulance.
“Josh and I have been on multiple cardiac emergencies together in the past 10 years and we both understand the process and how each works in a situation like this,” Parce said. “Josh basically took over the scene in a very calm, calculated and professional manner, which is how he works and makes him so effective at saving lives.”
Parce continued to provide deep, full-chest compressions while Pipolo and his crew established an IV and introduced cardiac medications. The paramedics promptly opened an airway and administered defibrillation shocks on Brown.
More fire department personnel arrived on scene and Brown was loaded into the ambulance and transported to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
Two days later Eric Brown woke up.
“I see I’m surrounded by stuff, and I think ‘this isn’t good.’”
Brown soon learned that he had a heart attack. The doctors told him he had a normal amount of plaque, but a piece had broke loose and blocked an artery.
Brown was released from the hospital after only five days, and has since made a full recovery.
According to the American Heart Association, almost 90 percent of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrest die. Some patients never get back the level of physical or mental health they enjoyed before the cardiopulmonary arrest.
Brown is an exception. Everything that happened to save his life came together when it needed to.
Parce was awarded a lifesaving-award recently for the actions he took to save Brown’s life. Parce and Brown were also able to meet each other last week.
“I was very, very lucky, a lot of things went right,” Brown said.
“It’s nice to know that our public servants are well-versed in CPR. He was not afraid to jump in there and take over and take charge of the whole situation,” he said. “I did not have any issues afterward, and it’s because of the fact they took care of me so quickly.” Last weekend, Brown attended his 2-year-old granddaughter’s birthday party.
“A kid’s smile can really do something for you,” Brown said. “I’m very grateful.”
Pippin recalls his friend and co-worker’s medical emergency clearly. “When Officer Parce relieved me and took over CPR it was very hard seeing Eric on the ground,” he said.
Later that day, he met Brown’s family at the hospital. He had to tell Brown’s wife, Shari, and children, Charissa and Joey, that he was there when it happened.
But all the feedback Pippin heard from medical personnel was positive.
“It happened right in front of someone who knew CPR. I acted right away. Officer Parce got here in record time. The ambulance was here in record time. The fact Eric had taken care of himself his whole life I’m sure was a very big help.”
Parce said he doesn’t consider himself a hero, he was just doing what anyone else would do.
“My role was to do CPR and get the ambulance rolling and that’s really all I did,” he said.
Kalispell Police Department acting chief Wade Rademacher said his staff regularly receives CPR training and recertification, and learn to use automatic electronic defibrillators.
“We feel it’s really important to have our officers trained in CPR,” Rademacher said. “We hear a couple calls per week for somebody who isn’t breathing, and we are often able to get to the scene faster than the fire department because our guys are out patrolling.”
Every year, the department recognizes officers who take exceptional action to save or attempt to save the life of another person.
Parce was given the award this year, along with officer Justin Turner, who has also performed CPR on patients.
“In a lot of situations, we are the first line of defense, so I do think it’s important for officers to be versed in CPR and apply it effectively and not be scared, Because it is a scary thing,” Turner said.
The officer urged citizens to educate themselves in CPR.
“It is so critical that chest compressions be administered immediately. Those are going to be the people who survive, so it’s important for the general public to be prepared and get after it,” Turner said.
Brown, who has also taken CPR classes, echoed the officer’s sentiments.
“My message would be, even if you aren’t well-versed in CPR, you need to do something. You need to keep that blood flowing. Don’t stand around wondering what to do,” he said.
Brown said he has been humbled by the medical emergency.
“I don’t take things for granted as much and I’m not judgmental because you never know what is going to happen,” he said. “I’m very thankful. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
Breeana Laughlin can be reached at 758-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.