What do you say to the people who saved your life?
Karen McClure kept it simple.
“Thank you so much, both of you,” the 51-year-old Redmond woman said Saturday, as she met the two men who found her unconscious and performed CPR until paramedics arrived.
The reunion took place on a popular walking path in Redmond’s Education Hill area. Locals call it the “Power Line” trail, and it was here on May 19 that Nishant Kumar and his friend Ruchir Astavans spotted McClure facedown.
At first, they thought she had tripped and fallen. But as they got closer, they saw that her glasses were smashed. Her face was ashen and tinged with blue.
“She wasn’t breathing,” Astavans said.
The men called 911.
Neither was trained in CPR — cardiopulmonary resuscitation — but the dispatcher talked them through the process.
“I was a little panicked at first,” Astavans recalled. “But the dispatcher was very firm. She said: ‘This is what you’re going to do.’ ”
The incident shows how easy it is to perform CPR, said paramedic Mike Hilley of the Redmond Fire Department. It also highlights a new approach that calls for rapid chest compressions and dispenses with the mouth-to-mouth breathing.
“It’s hands-only anymore,” Hilley said. “It’s fast and hard — 100 compressions a minute, and don’t stop.”
Astavans said he was surprised at the rapid pace the dispatcher instructed him to maintain. “She had me count it out.”
Meanwhile, Kumar was relaying directions to the site, nearly a half mile up the trail.
“There’s no address for this place,” said Redmond paramedic Skip Boylan, who coordinated the response. He estimated it was at least 10 minutes before the first rescue unit from the Woodinville Fire Department arrived. Redmond units arrived soon after.
Even then, McClure wasn’t out of the woods. Her heart refused to stabilize for nearly an hour, despite being jolted three times with a defibrillator.
“This tells the whole story,” Boylan said, unrolling a 12-foot-long computer tape with all the data paramedics gathered on McClure’s heart rate, blood chemistry and other vital signs as they battled to keep her alive. The first tracings reflect the chaotic beating of a heart out of control.
“It was like a bowl of Jell-O,” Boylan said. “That’s called ventricular fibrillation.”
Kumar and Astavans watched anxiously as a team of six to eight paramedics continued nonstop CPR.
“The amount of effort was impressive,” Kumar said.
When McClure’s heart finally stabilized, she was rushed to Evergreen Hospital.
Heart-attack victims who receive immediate and uninterrupted CPR have more than a 60 percent chance of surviving, Hilley said.
McClure’s doctors told her she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest, but they can’t explain what caused it, she said. “I’ve always been healthy,” she said. “I walk every day.”
She collapsed during one of her after-work walks, though the incident erased all memory of that day.
She’s been eager to meet Kumar and Astavans, both Microsoft employees.
With her husband and two sons at her side, McClure hugged both her benefactors — but gingerly, due to a tender spot on her chest where doctors implanted a pacemaker/defibrillator.
“I don’t want to have to pay this back,” she said. “But I’ll try to pay it forward.”