A second chance: Heart attack victim meets rescuers
On a typical morning run Elk Grove resident Walt Lytle powered up a hill in the Negro Bar area of the American River Trail — mile 9 of a planned 14-mile run.
“I told my buddy, ‘I think I’ll just walk for a while,’” Lytle said, “and at that point I just fell to my knees.”
June 6, 2010, Lytle, 48, suffered a massive coronary. His heart stopped; his breathing ceased.
On Dec. 15 another event took Lytle’s breath away. Mercy Hospital in Folsom set up a luncheon, bringing together all the people who had a hand in saving his life and helped his family through a difficult time.
“It was a miracle,” Lytle said.
The rescue effort started moments after Lytle collapsed. A Good Samaritan began CPR. Then Team Revolutions riders Heidi Napier and Shannon Beretta, both of Cameron Park, rode up.
“Shannon and I stopped. We wanted to help if we could,” Napier said. “I took over (CPR) for a while and then Shannon took a turn.”
Folsom Fire Department first responders came next. “He looked dead to me,” Napier said of the moments after emergency crews took over. “He didn’t have any pulse that I could find.”
“He was unresponsive, ” Folsom Fire Capt. Eric Adams confirmed.
A shock brought Lytle’s heart back and paramedics used equipment to help him breathe so “we could get him to the hospital as fast as we could,” Adams said.
When the ambulance unloaded at Mercy Folsom Adams said, “We were hopeful we’d have a positive outcome.” Emergency physician David Smith’s optimism wasn’t quite that high; Lytle still couldn’t breathe on his own and he wasn’t responding to typical tests.
Walt’s wife of 21 years, Cindy, was at church when he collapsed. She called the three days after “sheer hell.” The couple has two sons and two daughters.
Two-and-a-half hours after Walt arrived at the Folsom emergency room he was transferred to Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, where doctors placed a stint in his blocked artery. Walt “lost three days” to the incident but, thanks to everyone’s efforts he didn’t lose his life.
“I was alive when this thing started and I’m alive today,” Walt said to the crowd of about 50 people, including his family and a half dozen reporters and photographers.
“We are all blessed to be here,” he added. “Enjoy each moment.”
The second chance has inspired some changes in Walt — Old Walt vs. New Walt as he calls it.
After not being allowed to drive for a while Walt said the moment he got behind the wheel he promised “never to complain about traffic again.”
The construction company owner also said when he’s running and sees someone else go down he’ll no longer think, “Well, that’s one less person I’ve got to beat.”
To demonstrate his full recovery Walt recently completed a half marathon at the California International Marathon. And though he said he’s running faster and farther than before the heart attack, Walt and his running mates take extra precautions while pounding the pavement. “My whole racing team is now certified in CPR,” he said.
CPR ensured Walt’s survival, several speakers at Thursday’s event agreed. Napier, a semi-retired veterinarian and Beretta, a physical therapist, knew what to do.
“You don’t really think about it,” said Napier 61. “We just focused on Walt and what we had to do.”
Beretta, 40, said even though she worked in healthcare for 20 years she’d never before performed CPR. Both women and Walt encouraged everyone to learn the life-saving technique.
“Everyone should learn CPR,” Napier said. “Very few people will need it but if you do ….”
When Napier said she heard Walt survived and got to talk with him she said, “It was really wonderful.”
Sacramento County Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan, who represents the Folsom area, honored Napier and Beretta for a job well done. At the Mercy event, each recieved a plaque from the Board of Supervisors and took photos with MacGlashan and Walt, who quipped during the photo shoot, “I don’t need (a plaque). They did all the work.”