In Fam­ily

Quick ac­tion saves man’s life af­ter his heart stops in restau­rant

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - THEODEN JANES

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. — John Og­burn doesn’t re­mem­ber a sin­gle thing about June 26.

He doesn’t re­mem­ber wak­ing up that Mon­day morn­ing, or help­ing pre­pare break­fast for his three young chil­dren, or kiss­ing his wife, Sara­beth, good­bye, or any of the meet­ings he had with land­scape de­sign clients. He doesn’t re­mem­ber driv­ing to the Pan­era Bread in the Cotswold Vil­lage shop­ping cen­ter. He doesn’t re­mem­ber go­ing to his fa­vorite booth in the back, where he reg­u­larly sat for hours do­ing work on his lap­top.

He doesn’t re­mem­ber crum­pling to the floor about quar­ter past 4 p.m., his heart gone com­pletely, ter­ri­fy­ingly still.

He doesn’t re­mem­ber any of the many, many things that hap­pened next. But in the month since, he has come to un­der­stand this: If a sin­gle one of those things “didn’t hap­pen cor­rectly,” he says, “it could have gone dif­fer­ently pretty quickly.”

And Og­burn, who was 35 at the time, would be dead.


April Bradley was just start­ing her shift that af­ter­noon as a de­liv­ery driver for Pan­era Bread. She went to clock in af­ter grab­bing a drink cup for her brother, who headed to the dining room to fill it but quickly re­turned to tell her that some­one was passed out in the back of the restau­rant.

When they got to Og­burn, whom she im­me­di­ately rec­og­nized as a reg­u­lar, he was splayed out on the car­pet and “his face was just … dark purple,” she says. “It was the scari­est thing I’ve ever seen.” She picked up the phone and di­aled 911, at 4:17 p.m.

The re­sponse to the call came faster than any­one could have imag­ined.

Maybe a foot­ball field away, Char­lotte Meck­len­burg Po­lice De­part­ment Of­fi­cer Lawrence Guiler had just fin­ished tend­ing to a mi­nor ac­ci­dent and was in his cruiser about to get back on the road.

“I was leav­ing that re­port … and the call came out for a male in car­diac ar­rest at the Pan­era Bread,” Guiler says. “I look up, and the Pan­era Bread is right there. So, im­me­di­ately, I just told our dis­patch, ‘Hey, I’m right here, put me on the call,’ and I went in to find him on the ground.

“It was a bad sit­u­a­tion. It was re­ally bad.”

Guiler should know. Be­fore join­ing the Char­lotte Meck­len­burg Po­lice De­part­ment four years ago as an of­fi­cer, he was an EMT in the Durham, N.C., area — which made him an ideal per­son to be the first of the first re­spon­ders.

Guiler couldn’t find a pulse and es­tab­lished that Og­burn wasn’t breath­ing, so he be­gan CPR. He es­ti­mates that the amount of time that passed be­tween him get­ting the call and him start­ing life-sav­ing ef­forts was “prob­a­bly around 20 to 30 sec­onds.”

About 30 sec­onds af­ter Guiler ar­rived on the scene, an­other CMPD of­fi­cer rushed into the restau­rant.

“Coin­ci­den­tally, I was al­ready dis­patched to a sec­ond ac­ci­dent in the same park­ing lot in Cotswold, which gen­er­ally doesn’t hap­pen very of­ten — the same time, the same park­ing lot,” says Nikolina Ba­jic, a na­tive of Croa­tia who ended up in Kosovo as a war refugee, im­mi­grated to this coun­try and has been a po­lice of­fi­cer in Char­lotte since 2006.

So within roughly 30 sec­onds of April Bradley call­ing 911, Og­burn was re­ceiv­ing CPR from some­one who’d had a whole lot more ex­pe­ri­ence ad­min­is­ter­ing CPR than the av­er­age po­lice of­fi­cer, much less the av­er­age per­son, and within about a minute, an­other of­fi­cer was there to help.

The of­fi­cers agree it was a highly un­usual sit­u­a­tion — that the lo­cal emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices agency, Medic, or Char­lotte Fire De­part­ment per­son­nel al­most al­ways get there first and start CPR, and that po­lice typ­i­cally are there to se­cure the scene or di­rect traf­fic.

How un­usual? In 11 years as a po­lice of­fi­cer, Ba­jic says, “I’ve never had to do this.”


The of­fi­cers say a woman in the restau­rant who iden­ti­fied her­self as a nurse of­fered to as­sist, “and she def­i­nitely did,” Guiler says. “She didn’t do chest com­pres­sions, but she was help­ing me try and mon­i­tor his pulse, see if he was start­ing to re­spond.” The of­fi­cers never got her name.

A few min­utes later, four Char­lotte fire­fight­ers from Sta­tion 14’s B Shift ar­rived, opened up Og­burn’s air­way and fit­ted him with an oxy­gen mask, says Medic spokesman Lester Oliva.

They also be­gan tak­ing turns with the of­fi­cers per­form­ing CPR. Each per­son went at it for roughly two min­utes at a time.

Fire­fight­ers also used a de­fib­ril­la­tor to de­liver a shock that they hoped might restart his heart. It didn’t.

Medic ar­rived at 4:26 p.m., records show, and life-sav­ing ef­forts con­tin­ued as paramedic Ben­jamin Shaw and EMT Brit­tany Har­ris ex­panded the CPR ro­ta­tion to eight.

Medic shocked Og­burn with the de­fib­ril­la­tor again. And again. And

again. They gave him a shot of ep­i­neph­rine, which aims to re­turn the heart to a nor­mal rhythm. Then an­other. Then an­other.

Noth­ing. No re­sponse. No pulse. No breath­ing. No sign of life. At this point, more than 20 min­utes have gone by.

“Me and my brother were [watch­ing] and we were like, ‘There’s no way that this guy is gonna live through this,’” Bradley says. “And I thought even if he did come back, he’d be brain dead.”

Ba­jic ad­mits they were not op­ti­mistic by the time they passed the half-hour mark.

“[We fig­ured] he’s not gonna come back, be­cause — that long to be with­out a pulse, gen­er­ally it doesn’t end well,” she says.

But they kept on.


Around 4:30 p.m., while Og­burn was on the floor of the Pan­era Bread re­ceiv­ing CPR from eight first re­spon­ders, his iPhone started ring­ing. It was his wife, Sara­beth. “I was try­ing to get in touch with him be­cause our old­est son (5-year-old Huck) had his first loose tooth, so he wanted to FaceTime with him to show him,” she says. “I called a cou­ple of times, but he didn’t an­swer. I as­sumed he was in a meet­ing.”

A lit­tle over an hour later, she was head­ing with Huck, 4-year-old daugh­ter Birdie and 2-year-old son Revel to her par­ents’ house for din­ner when No­vant Health Pres­by­te­rian Med­i­cal Cen­ter called. She was told Og­burn had gone into car­diac ar­rest and that she needed to get to the emer­gency room im­me­di­ately.

“It was ter­ri­fy­ing,” she says. “When I got there, I was taken into a room with two po­lice of­fi­cers, ER doc­tors, nurses and clergy. Ba­si­cally, they said: ‘We don’t know what’s gonna hap­pen.’”

She says some­one in­formed her that he re­ceived CPR for 38 min­utes; Medic re­ported it at less (33 min­utes) and the of­fi­cers es­ti­mate it at more (45), but in any event, it was a lot.

And al­though his pulse had fi­nally been re-es­tab­lished on the scene, he was far from safe.

When Og­burn was taken to the ER, the first per­son to ex­am­ine him was Dr. Amy McLaugh­lin, No­vant Health emer­gency medicine physi­cian.

“Medic tells us the story,” McLaugh­lin says, “that he col­lapsed in the Pan­era, that first re­spon­ders were less than a minute away and started CPR … that they had a to­tal of eight shocks and five rounds of ep­i­neph­rine, which is quite a bit. It’s a lot. And the to­tal CPR time, which is a lot.”

McLaugh­lin says Og­burn’s pupils were re­spon­sive, which was a good sign, but his heart was still act­ing er­rat­i­cally, his blood pres­sure kept drop­ping,

and they were hav­ing trou­ble keep­ing his oxy­gen lev­els up. So she put in an en­do­tra­chial tube to keep him oxy­genated, gave him one med­i­ca­tion to try to sta­bi­lize his heart and an­other to try to in­crease his blood pres­sure.

A quick con­sul­ta­tion with the car­di­ol­ogy unit ruled out a heart at­tack, and the CT scan McLaugh­lin or­dered re­vealed that he didn’t have any blood clots.

Og­burn had no pre-ex­ist­ing heart con­di­tions, there was no his­tory of heart dis­ease or heart prob­lems in his fam­ily, he had a healthy diet, and he worked out at a kick­box­ing gym four to five days a week.

“The med­i­cal term is id­io­pathic,” McLaugh­lin says, “which means we can’t find a cause for it. The med­i­cal term for ‘we don’t know’ is id­io­pathic. Just sounds bet­ter, I guess.”


Og­burn was trans­ported to the in­ten­sive care unit, then put into a hy­pother­mia pro­to­col, which — as McLaugh­lin ex­plains — low­ers the pa­tient’s body tem­per­a­ture sev­eral de­grees be­low nor­mal, de­creas­ing the meta­bolic de­mand of the body so that it can re­cover.

Es­sen­tially, the pa­tient is med­i­cally par­a­lyzed to keep his body from shiver­ing, se­dated into a coma, and given pain medicine. (It’s be­lieved this hy­pother­mia pro­to­col might help pre­vent or lessen

brain dam­age caused by car­diac ar­rest.) Og­burn’s body was warmed back up af­ter two days — on his 36th birth­day, in fact — and brought slowly out of se­da­tion on Day 3.

“When he started to wake up from the coma,” Sara­beth Og­burn says, “he squeezed my hand. I wasn’t sure if I would ever have that again.”

His first few con­scious days were a bit hazy, but it was quickly clear his brain was not dam­aged, and by the time Of­fi­cers Ba­jic and Guiler came to the hos­pi­tal to visit him on the Fourth of July, he was able to get out of bed to hug them.

“It was very emo­tional,” Ba­jic says. “I got goose­bumps all over be­cause when I saw him and his wife, and how happy they are, and we met his par­ents and they couldn’t stop thank­ing us for sav­ing their son’s life … that’s when you re­al­ize, we did all this. … All these peo­ple’s lives were [af­fected] by what we did.”

Just over a week af­ter Ba­jic and Guiler found John Og­burn un­re­spon­sive, they stood with their arms around him in his hos­pi­tal room, smil­ing for a cam­era.


It is amaz­ing. All of it. McLaugh­lin says, “If this had hap­pened when he was on his way to Pan­era, he prob­a­bly wouldn’t still be alive. Ev­ery­thing that could go right for him af­ter this event did go right.”

As­ton­ish­ingly, the only af­ter-ef­fects ap­peared to be some short-term mem­ory loss and an ex­tremely sore chest — from the more than 3,500 com­pres­sions Oliva says were ad­min­is­tered.

Og­burn now has a de­fib­ril­la­tor im­planted just be­neath the sur­face of the skin near his left col­lar­bone, there to give him a kick if some­thing like this should hap­pen again. But Sara­beth Og­burn says, “They do not ex­pect to see him again un­til it’s time to change the bat­tery in 10 years.”

The cou­ple would like to go visit the hos­pi­tal staff again any­way, just to hug them and thank them. They want to thank the fire­fight­ers, the Medic per­son­nel, the staff at Pan­era; they want to try to track down the mys­tery nurse; and most of all, they want the world to know how spe­cial the of­fi­cers are.

“They’d be the first to say, you know, ‘We’re just do­ing our job’ type of thing,” Og­burn says. “But from ev­ery­thing I’ve heard, they were do­ing more than their job.”

What do the of­fi­cers have to say about that?

“We were just do­ing our job,” Guiler says. “We were in the right place at the right time. We would do it for any­body.”

But he and Ba­jic are clear on this: Know­ing that they played a big part in sav­ing Og­burn’s life is one of the best feel­ings they’ve ever had on said job.

“Be­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer’s a very stress­ful job,” Ba­jic says. “There are days that this job can be just like any other job, where you just feel like you don’t want to do this any­more, and that it’s too much. … You be­come over­whelmed.

“I ex­plained to John’s wife, I was say­ing that we have our neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive charge, and when things like this hap­pen, your pos­i­tive goes way up and elim­i­nates all this neg­a­tiv­ity that you had be­fore. … This is why we do what we do. This is why.”

Char­lotte Ob­server/TNS/ALEX KORMANN

Char­lotte (N.C.) Meck­len­burg Po­lice De­part­ment Of­fi­cers Nikolina Ba­jic (left rear) and Lawrence Guiler stand with John and Sara­beth Og­burn and their chil­dren (from left), Birdie, 4; Huck, 5; and Revel, 2. Guiler and Ba­jic saved John Og­burn’s life a few weeks ago when they per­formed CPR on him for nearly 45 min­utes af­ter he had gone into car­diac ar­rest.

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