Puyallup: News

East Pierce Fire crews helped save his life. He felt compelled to express his gratitude

Heart attack survivor Jack Tatarian, center, of Bonney Lake talks with firefighter/paramedic Jason Brooks, left — one of the first responders on Tatarian’s emergency — and Battalion Chief Jeff Moore at the East Pierce Fire & Rescue headquarters in Bonney Lake on Dec. 12.
Heart attack survivor Jack Tatarian, center, of Bonney Lake talks with firefighter/paramedic Jason Brooks, left — one of the first responders on Tatarian’s emergency — and Battalion Chief Jeff Moore at the East Pierce Fire & Rescue headquarters in Bonney Lake on Dec. 12. toverman@theolympian.com

There is a whole day missing from Jack Tatarian’s life — one that he doesn’t remember.

On Sept. 5, Tatarian went into cardiac arrest in his home in Bonney Lake.

“All I remember is waking up (in the hospital) with a roommate and my wife standing with me,” he said.

There, the 45-year-old Tatarian felt pain around his chest, but had no broken ribs. He didn’t remember what had happened, but his wife told him everything.

“I started to cry because I (didn’t) remember that entire day,” Tatarian said.

The day had started normal enough. Sept. 5 was a Tuesday, and Tatarian’s three children had the day off from school. Tatarian, who works in IT support, took his children with him to meet with one of his clients. Then he took them out to lunch before they returned home.

Later that evening, Tatarian was sitting in his chair and had called to his wife upstairs, who came down to sit with him a little while later.

“I thank God that she (heard) that little voice that said to go down and hang out with me,” Tatarian said.

At 10 p.m., Tatarian made a little noise and went into cardiac arrest.

“I just felt like I was kind of pulled out of my body,” Tatarian said.

Tatarian’s wife called 911. The operators talked her through CPR as East Pierce Fire & Rescue and Bonney Lake Police Department crews were dispatched. Tatarian’s three children — 8, 9 and 10 — were there, watching. They even helped roll their father out of his chair and onto his back.

A nearby Bonney Lake officer arrived at the scene first, equipped with an automatic external defibrillator (AED), and took over CPR. East Pierce Fire arrived shortly after.

EPFR firefighter paramedic Jason Brooks responded to the call that night and said all crews worked together like a well-oiled machine.

“It’s something that we practice over and over again,” Brooks said.

Crews continued CPR on Tatarian for 38 minutes before resuscitating him. It might seem like a long time, but as of 2017, EPFR rescue crews are supposed to continue CPR for at least 40 minutes, said EPFR Battalion Chief Jeff Moore.

And Tatarian’s family performing CPR through phone instruction before help arrived was instrumental in saving Tatarian’s life. Survival decreases by 10 percent if CPR is not started right away and continued, Moore said.

“The key is CPR prior to arrival,” Brooks said.

The survival rate for “witnessed ventricular fibrillation cardiac arrest” is about 50 percent for EPFR as of 2017. The department experiences anywhere from six to 12 of these types of cardiac arrests per year, with only three to six survivors.

“This particular event was one of the success stories for us,” Moore said.

After he was resuscitated, Tatarian was transported to Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup, where he stayed for about a week before being transferred to Tacoma General Hospital. There, he had a pacemaker put in to get rid of the extra beat in his heart.

Tatarian has had complications with his heart in the past. In 2010, he found he had congestive heart failure, and a few years later was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Tatarian’s father struggled with heart issues as well, and Tatarian lost him to them at the age of 13.

The whole ordeal made him think about his own children, who were all in tears that night, Tatarian said. His 10-year-old son even ran upstairs to grab the gear Tatarian wears to bed for his sleep apnea, thinking it might help. And even if it didn’t, it was quick thinking.

“I hope one day he becomes a paramedic or a firefighter,” Tatarian said.

The EPFR crews even gave his children stuffed animals that night to help calm them, Tatarian added.

On Nov. 21, Tatarian visited the crew to thank them for saving his life. In his 20-years at EPFR, Brooks said it was the first time he was able to sit down and talk with someone he helped save after the fact.

“When Jack reached out to us to meet the crew — I can’t tell you what it means to (them),” Moore said.

Now, Tatarian said he views life in a new way, and was inspired by the crew that saved him to help others.

“I was given a second chance to be back ... Anywhere anybody needs my help, I want to be able to help in anyway,” he said.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison

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