Bystanders save life of fire dept. employee whose heart stopped

The five bystanders, including two nurses and an off-duty cop, were honored for their quick thinking and CPR that saved Lindsay Dyer's life

By Ellen Garrison
The Sacramento Bee

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — On a sunny Friday afternoon in October, West Sacramento Fire Department secretary Lindsay Dyer laced up her sneakers and headed out for a routine jog on her lunch hour.

It turned into “the run of my life,” Dyer said, when her heart suddenly stopped, and she was saved by five bystanders.

“As I lay on the ground dying, pulseless, strangers saw me alone and in distress,” Dyer said. “In my greatest moment of need, they came to my rescue.”

The five bystanders, including two nurses and an off-duty cop, were honored Monday during a Fire Department ceremony for their quick thinking and CPR that saved Dyer’s life.

When she set out for a run that autumn day, Dyer didn’t know she’d been living with a potentially lethal condition for decades. A congenital heart problem from childhood had never been diagnosed.

Instead, it nearly killed her as she ran down Stonegate Drive toward Lake Washington Boulevard. When Dyer collapsed, Yesabel Perza, a Sutter Health nurse, was getting lunch with her husband at the Nugget Market across the street and saw Dyer on the ground.

“I had to go and see because it looked like she was having a seizure,” Perza said.

Others who came to Dyer’s aid were UC Davis nurse Devyn Hotho, off-duty Davis police Sgt. Dan Powell, corrections officer Jeremy Fristoe and resident Jenilee Larsen. Each received a commendation for outstanding effort Monday.

Dyer said that without their intervention, the seconds that her heart stopped could have been minutes, leaving her with permanent damage to her brain and other organs.

Also honored Monday for their roles in saving Dyer’s life were West Sacramento firefighter Sayer Morgan, from Dyer’s fire station, paramedic Blythe Clark and EMT Ben Klein.

“(An ambulance) and West Sac fire soon arrived on scene and together we fought as I put my life in their hands,” Dyer said at the ceremony. “Time passed, and we rallied through multiple rounds of CPR and three shocks on the AED (defibrillator).”

Dyer was rushed to the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where West Sacramento firefighters and staff kept her company until her family arrived. Department Chief John Heilmann’s face was one of the first Dyer saw, assuring her that she was safe. Firefighters continued to drop in to see her throughout her recovery, and city staff helped cover her hours, she said.

Clark, the paramedic, has since become friends with Dyer after visiting her in the hospital. She said the incident started out as a seizure call, but the stress increased when the fire personnel recognized Dyer as one of their own.

Clark said it’s rare that a victim is recognized by life-saving professionals and rarer still to become friends with someone you’ve saved.

“We’re the exact same age. We live near each other,” Clark said. “Lindsay is fun-loving, quick to make friends with people, quick to make friends with me.”

People with uncorrected heart defects don’t usually live past 35, said Dyer, who celebrated her 34th birthday shortly after her collapse.

“Someone remarked to me: ‘You know this gathering of friends and family, loved ones, around your favorite food could have been a memorial,’ ” Dyer said during Monday’s post-ceremony reception. She said she’s learned to enjoy her new lease on life, and not to sweat the small stuff.

“Tomorrow is not guaranteed,” Dyer said. “You smile a little more often. You’re a little bit nicer to people. You find joy in the small things, and you treat others and yourself better.”

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