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Posted by By Ali Longwell February 22, 2024 on Feb 26th 2024

Eagle County woman performs lifesaving CPR on father after cardiac event

Eagle County woman performs lifesaving CPR on father after cardiac event
Why CPR and AED training is critical

When Jenna Beairsto took CPR courses through her employer, she never expected she’d need the training for her own family.

In late January, however, Jenna was working out with her father, Steve Beairsto, at the Homestead Court Club when Steve experienced sudden cardiac arrest and collapsed on the treadmill.

Her CPR training saved his life.

Steve Beairsto has lived in Eagle County since 1984. Today, he owns an electrical contracting company, Wire Nut Electric, and works as a children’s ski instructor at Vail Mountain. Jenna was born in the county in 1991 and currently works as a project manager for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

The father and daughter work out together several times a week at their community gym. So, on the day the cardiac event occurred, it started as a fairly typical day.

“I was a couple of treadmills down from him,” Jenna said. “He was walking on the treadmill for about 10 minutes and then started to feel faint and reached to stop the treadmill, but didn’t stop it in time, so he just collapsed forward. I saw him right after he fell.”

Quickly, Jenna and others at the club rushed over to Steve, where Jenna said he was having some convulsions and was beginning to turn a bluish-purple.

While someone called 911, Jenna began compressions.

“At first, I was like really panicked, obviously, with everything going on. But once I started doing compressions, I just started doing it like I had practiced,” she said. “There were people around, but when they said we need to start CPR, I knew what to do so I just started.”

Jenna said she’s been CPR certified on and off depending on her employer. However, since she was hired by the water and sanitation district in 2021, she has kept up her certification. Her most recent training was a year ago.

“Obviously, it was different doing it on a real person,” Jenna said. “I was very scared and my adrenaline was going really fast.”

Others on the scene in Homestead were retrieving the club’s AED while Jenna continued compressions. A few minutes into her compressions, Eagle River Fire, followed by Eagle County Paramedics, showed up and took over compressions as well as connected Steve to their AED. Steve received a total of six defibrillator shocks and was eventually transported to the Aurora Medical ICU and cardiac unit.

“They were in the court club for probably an hour doing compressions and my dad got shocked six times and they just didn’t give up. I feel like the amount of work and how hard they worked to bring him back was amazing and we’re so grateful to them,” Jenna said.

The last thing that Steve said he remembers is Jenna’s face before waking in the hospital two days later.

“They had given me a 10% chance of surviving and even less of having any cognitive ability afterward, but I seem to have come back pretty much normal, so that was pretty surprising,” Steve said.

Bill Johnston was one of the paramedics with Eagle County Paramedics who showed up on the scene that day. Steve, he said, is a patient he’ll likely never forget.

“I’ve been in EMS for 29 years, and a paramedic for 25 years, and the number of people that walk out of the hospital in their own power, is profoundly small,” Johnston said. “I have seen less than five in my whole career. So I remember Steve very well.”

“I got the job title of paramedic, but I’m not sure I did a whole lot to save him. I kind of cleaned up the good work that someone else started,” he added. “It’s actually the CPR that saved him; she’s the one, definitively, that saved him.”

Why CPR matters

Sudden cardiac arrest is the “nation’s biggest killer, more than the next six causes of death combined,” said Alan Himelfarb, executive director of Starting Hearts. Starting Hearts is a nonprofit founded in Avon that provides CPR and AED training and access programs.

“Early care by bystanders is crucial to saving the lives of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victims. SCA is a ten-minute disease, with the possibility of survival dropping 10% every minute. Brain damage begins in just four minutes, so the importance of early care by bystanders cannot be overstated,” Himelfarb said.

A bystander or citizen performing CPR is “the first link in the ‘chain of survival,'” Himelfarb added.

“When a citizen provides early care, the chance of survival and complete recovery can jump from a dismal 10% to more than 40%; and if a lifesaving defibrillator can be applied within the first few minutes, survival can reach as high as 70%,” he said.

At the simplest level, performing CPR helps push just enough blood to the brain that the brain can get oxygen — performing compressions “is all that is needed,” Johnston said.

“There are so many civilians that are afraid to do CPR. They’re afraid to do it wrong,” Johnston said. “They’re afraid to hurt someone. They still think you have to do mouth-to-mouth. None of that’s true. If they’re not awake, start CPR. There’s no way to make a mistake.”

Jenna and Steve Beairsto hope that others hear their story and learn about the value of CPR training and action.

“We’re eternally grateful that I had been CPR certified and sort of knew what to do and how to do it,” Jenna said. “It’s so important for people to know how to do it because you never know when you might need it. I never expected that this would be the scenario that I would need to know CPR for.”

Steve added that the family intends to now advocate for everyone they know to get CPR training and to help get more AED devices installed in town.

Overall, both expressed gratitude for the care teams from the paramedics, the emergency doctors and the helicopter pilot to the staff at the Aurora Medical ICU and cardiac unit.

Other than that, “I’m happy to be alive,” Steve said.