Fred Smith was dead.
The Chinook Middle School history teacher had collapsed to the floor. His face was blue, said school principal Kirsten Rae. Custodian Dave Watson was working in the cafeteria that February morning when he heard a groan and found Smith motionless on the ground. His heart had stopped beating.
I ran over, shook him and yelled for help, Watson said. It was still early, hours before the first classes start. The only person nearby was physical education teacher Micah McBride.
Watson started calling 9-1-1 as he ran to find McBride, who took over the phone as Watson started CPR on the history teacher.
McBride reached for the defibrillator, but medics arrived before he opened the device.
I ran out the front door to direct them when they came, McBride said. It was a symphony of people -- seven all standing around him.
After four shocks, McBride started fearing the worst. But the fifth shock brought Smiths vital signs back. Emergency responders whisked Smith away in an ambulance.
My last vision of him was a dead stare, Watson said.
Six weeks later, Smith is back in his classroom teaching his students.
There is a 1 percent chance that I should be alive, Smith said.
Emergency responders attribute Smiths survival to the quick actions of Watson and McBride. Both were recognized last week at the Lacey Fire District 3 Commissioner meeting.
They started even before they got 9-1-1 on the line, and that I think is just so heroic and so supportive, and truly life saving for Mr. Smith, said Karen Hoffman of Thurston County Medic One.
Hoffman and Lacey Fire District 3 Lt. Alex Christiansen spent last Friday teaching a quick CPR refresher class to a dozen teachers and staff members, including McBride and Watson.
Its the free, 30-minute presentation called Two Minutes to Save a Life that fire departments around the county use to help businesses, schools and groups brush up on CPR basics.
We will come out to your business for no charge and we can show your whole staff and just demonstrate how to save someones life during this program, Hoffman said. Not everyone needs an eight-hour official certification with a CPR card class.
Thurston County has a 45 percent survival rate for patients suffering from cardiac arrest, well above the national average of about 10 percent.
The question is, how do we make that 45 percent go up to 95 percent? Christiansen asked the group. Its with earlier recognition and earlier CPR.
Emergency responders are teaching the general public to use chest-compression-only CPR, versus the traditional method that involves artificial respiration.
Anyone doing CPR now is advised to shake and shout or try and get a response from the victim, call 9-1-1, then begin CPR, keeping compressions at 100 beats per minute.
We use Stayin Alive music when teaching our responders, Christiansen said. It has a tempo of about 100 beats per minute.
The teachers practiced on dummies, each taking two-minute turns before passing the task along to a partner. You come right in and start, Hoffman said. You have to have a smooth transition from one to the other.
The teachers were told not to worry if they hear loud popping sounds during the first compressions.
Thats the cartilage separating, Christiansen said. It feels like a bag of pretzels on the counter. ... Its what happens, so dont stop or freak out.
That sound and feeling still resonates with Watson when he thinks back to performing CPR on Smith.
It was nasty, Watson said. I thought Oh my God, I think I broke his ribs.
It was the first time he had performed CPR in a real-life scenario. The experience for both Watson and McBride has increased their confidence if they are needed in another emergency.
Anyone can do what we did, McBride said. Ive been going to CPR classes for 15 years, and the next thing you know, boom, there is someone who needs it.
Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476