Around 6:45 p.m. on Aug. 25, Battle Ground resident Brad Ruff’s heart stopped. Because of the quick efforts of his wife and first responders, a month later Ruff got to thank everyone who saved his life in a special ceremony at Fire District 3’s Station 35, Monday, Sept. 25.
Ruff’s family gave heartfelt thanks to the first responders, including paramedics, firefighters and police officers who saved Ruff’s life, which was also special for the first responders who don’t always get to hear about such a positive outcome afterward.
“It’s an incredibly positive experience. We don’t get a whole lot of closure when we go to those types of calls,” Battle Ground Police officer Max Everett said.
Everett and fellow officer Jeff Cabanting-Rafael were enforcing traffic safety nearby when the call came, and they were among the first to respond.
“There are a lot of calls that we go to that we hope we did well enough to help someone in the family. This is the first time in my career, and I’ve been in this career field for almost seven years, where I’ve actually met someone that everything came to fruition,” Cabanting-Rafael said. “Everything that you hope happens, happened.”
During the gathering, amid hugs and tears, Gretchen Ruff gave first responders cookies to say thank you, and Fire District 3 staff gave the Ruff family a tour of their station.
When Gretchen Ruff called 911 on Aug. 25, she had already started CPR on her husband after he went into cardiac arrest. Everett and Cabanting-Rafael arrived three minutes after the call and took over chest compressions, she recalled. Shortly after that, firefighters took over and used their mechanical chest compression device to restore Brad Ruff’s heartbeat. After only eight minutes from Gretchen Ruff’s call, her husband’s heart beat once more.
“I was standing outside and I just kept looking in the doorway and I remember saying, ‘Did you get a heartbeat back?’ And they said, ‘yes,’ ” she recalled. “It was instant relief, and then I just fell apart.”
Gretchen Ruff, who is a nurse, said during the gathering that she never wished to perform CPR on a family member. But her actions to save her husband’s life didn’t go unnoticed as Fire District 3 staff presented her with the Life Saving Award. Afterward, she spoke of the importance of learning and maintaining CPR skills. She said had she not administered CPR, Brad Ruff may have experienced “a really devastating brain injury” because of lack of oxygen.
“So it’s just timing and the sooner somebody gets that life-saving treatment, the better the outcome would be … and you just don’t know when it’s going to happen,” she said.
Brad Ruff said he is grateful to his wife and the first responders.
“It’s just wonderful, I mean, you never know when your time is up,” he said.
In the United States, 350,000 people experience cardiac arrest each year. Only 12% of people whose cardiac arrest takes place outside a hospital survive, mycprcertificationonline.com states.
Brad Ruff, retired from the San Diego Police Department in 2015, said, as a former first responder, being able to thank his own first responders means a lot.
“So, you just never know how things are going to turn out, and knowing that it turned out positive in this situation, I really wanted to thank everybody,” Brad Ruff said, adding even in cases where the person lives, first responders don’t receive thanks.
Brad Ruff said his outlook on life has changed. Whereas he once thought he had done everything he wanted to do in life, now he realizes life has more meaning and opportunity.
“You don’t usually run around and say, ‘hey, love you,’ to your kids and stuff like that,” Brad Ruff said. “So after this happened, I actually wrote a big long email to both. I have a son and a daughter … I wrote a big long thing telling them how proud I am. To be able to still be here is wonderful.”