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In a pickup basketball game, Gary Jarvis jumped for the rebound. The heart attack seized him mid-air and stopped him.
Perrin, a labor and delivery nurse at Fairview Ridges in Burnsville, was in the sanctuary, setting up for the Bible study group, which draws about 200 women.
About 6:40 p.m., a man ran into the sanctuary crying out: “We have a man down! We need help!”
On the gym floor of Berean Baptist Church, the 59-year-old Burnsville man lay dying.
The study group’s emergency plan kicked in. Perrin bolted into the gym. She saw men trying to pick up Jarvis’s limp body and told them to set him down and roll him over. The nurse laid her fingers on his neck, searching for the feel of blood rhythmically coursing through the carotid artery.
Nothing. He had no pulse. His eyes stared blankly, and his face was cut.
Deanne Adams, a licensed practical nurse from Farmington, ran up as Perrin knelt at Jarvis’ side. As Perrin dug out an oxygen mask, Adams began compressing.
One man had called 911, and another fetched the church’s automatic external defibrillator. The nurses pulled up Jarvis’ shirt, ready to try to jump-start his heart. But the batteries had been checked so often that they had no juice.
“Resume CPR!” Perrin said.
Two more registered nurses, Shawn Dietz of Elko and Kim Lorence of Apple Valley, ran into the gym. Dietz took over compressions. Perrin kept counting in a fast meter. Adams prayed in Jarvis’ ear.
Minutes later, paramedic Andy Hamlin and three other Burnsville firefighters rushed in.
“This man had everything going for him,” Hamlin said. “First, he had a cardiac arrest in a church; I can’t think of a better place to have one. Secondly, he had those highly skilled nurses who were there.”
The paramedics found Jarvis’ heart fluttering but not pumping. They hooked up their defibrillator and sent a shock across his chest.
Jarvis’ heartbeat resumed. He clenched his jaw. And then, he gasped.
Recently, as the Burnsville City Council honored the nurses for valor, Jarvis thanked them, too:
“At this time of year, we hear a lot about angels,” Jarvis told the women.
“Angels make announcements, angels sing songs of worship and praise, but I now think that angels do CPR. You are my angels of rescue; you are my heroes. I will be forever grateful. And my gratitude will be especially evident to me this Christmas when I see the joy in the faces of my family, in the faces of my grandchildren. I will enjoy another Christmas because you were quick and capable.”
Connie Perrin, a registered nurse from Prior Lake who led the rescue, said she’s elated that the nurses were able to help keep a family intact.
“It was God’s hand that he be there and collapse while we were there, because we knew what to do,” she said.
“I’m a Christian, so I believe this is a miracle that these ladies were there, and God had his hand in it,” Jarvis said. “It could have happened on the way home. It could have happened in the night. But it happened where there was help.”
Two weeks after his near death, Jarvis and wife Jennifer visited the Bible study group. He carried flowers for the nurses, who rushed to him, overjoyed to see him in good health.