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Woman greets, thanks the responders who saved her life
0822rescue 5
Hall County firefighter-EMT Marlana Crews demonstrates the LUCAS electric chest compression device. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Sondra Cochran called it a “perfect storm.” Her husband Gerard Schroeder thinks of it as a “royal flush.”

What is it? It’s the fact that Cochran is alive and well after being medically dead for around 10 minutes. Thanks to her “perfect storm” of responders helping on Aug. 3, she was able to speak with her rescuers Thursday at Fire Station No. 13 on Sardis Road.

“You see the ambulance and you know they’ve got somebody in there, but you’re never going to think it’s going to be you,” said Cochran, who grew up in Gainesville. “I think the dedication and the level of experience is one of the big reasons I’m here.”

Cochran and Schroeder, of Asheville, N.C., met with the rescue team at the fire station.

“This is what you were strapped into. You did not like it,” said Hall County paramedic Richard Fugel, demonstrating the LUCAS device that saved her life.

Paramedics strapped her to a LUCAS resuscitation machine, a device that compresses the victim’s chest. The machine performs 30 compressions before allowing a paramedic to breathe for the injured person.

Hall County has four of these $15,000 devices, but would like to get 13 more to have one for each engine.

After Cochran’s heart was restarted, paramedics began bringing down her body temperature.

“When their heart starts back after they’ve been in cardiac arrest, we cool them down. The idea of cooling them is to put them in a hypothermic state sort of like hibernation,” Fugel said. “It slows everything down to preserve brain activity and preserve organs.”

No warning signs were present, Cochran said. A quick burst of heartburn and a spell of nausea led to her having trouble breathing.

“To me, I’m almost like the poster child of what not to expect, but it can happen. There were no indicators. I’ve never had a heart problem,” Cochran said.

That’s when Schroeder began performing CPR, followed by the “royal flush” of response from paramedics all the way to the catheterization lab.

“Every step was thinking about what the next people needed, and she got everything,” Schroeder said. “It was like a baton pass in a relay with a lot of people, and it all worked out really well.”

Medical units were alerted just before 11 a.m. on Aug. 3, responding to the scene and resuscitating her in 20 minutes. The quick response, aided by her husband’s medical knowhow as a doctor, is why Cochran is alive today.

“I think if more people in the community knew CPR ... to help until the professionals get there, it can make a huge difference,” she said.