Brian Chacon said he just did what 911 dispatcher told him to do. Regardless, his actions saved a man’s life at the Renton Main Post Office.
Chacon, the supervisor at the post office, came to the lobby to a customer lying on the floor, unresponsive. Dave Kraayeveld, the man who suffered the cardiac arrest, has no memory of the post office, or the following day spent at Valley Medical Center. When Chacon realized he wasn’t responding, he called 911. The dispatcher asked him some questions and then walked Chacon through the CPR process, which he followed.
Everything happened so fast, Chacon said, there wasn’t even time to think. It was frightening in the moment, and more severe than he realized. He took CPR several years ago, but didn’t remember the steps in the moment.
“Thank goodness they were there to walk me through the process. I wouldn’t have even known to start CPR, I was thinking broken bone or a fall,” Chacon said. “In a time of emergency, all that (past training) seems to go out the window.”
A few minutes later, Renton police and firefighters arrived on the scene, and then medics responded. Chacon said they worked on Kraayeveld for at least a half hour in the lobby, which was closed off during the life support. Kraayeveld’s wife Cindy Kraayeveld said the first responders did a total of four rounds with the automated external defibrillator (AED) on him while at the post office.
Kraayeveld has lived in Renton since 1978. He said this is the first time he’s had a cardiac arrest, but has had a problem passing out due to blood pressure in the past. Since the incident on Dec. 3, he hasn’t felt sick. He had trouble believing the incident happened when he was told, but he’s glad he was in good hands.
Chacon is thankful that Kraayeveld is now recovering, he’s seen him since then when he came in to thank him for what he did. Seeing Kraayeveld was slightly embarrassing, Chacon said because he felt the dispatcher was the one who made the difference. But it was joyful to see Kraayeveld do so well and hear about his status. He’s most thankful the dispatcher was able to quickly respond and give him instructions. For Kraayeveld, he said thanking Chacon was a small gesture for being part of saving his life. Cindy Kraayeveld was also thankful that Chacon was courageous enough to perform CPR at the dispatcher’s command.
“If it weren’t for (Chacon), he would not be sitting here today,” she said, gesturing to her husband.
Those first few minutes make all the difference, Renton Regional Fire Authority (RFA) Deputy Chief Roy Gunsolus said. Brain death starts in two to four minutes, so the sooner oxygen can get flowing, the better.
Chacon has been with the post office for a year, and before that also worked with the public in other retail positions. He said this was an eye-opener for him, he now advocates that anyone who works with the public should be CPR trained.
In the start of 2019, RFA expanded the CPR training program, teaming up with Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority and Valley Regional Fire Authority. Now there’s a class every week between the departments for CPR and life saving techniques. The classes are offered in English, Spanish, American Sign Language and the departments are looking to add more languages. Gunsolus said the RFA also encourages offices, shops and other public settings to carry public defibrillators.
“We save lots of people, but the chances of success increases if we can get people doing CPR, quicker,” Gunsolus said. “If a citizen witnesses it, we’ve dramatically increased a person’s chances for survival.”
The Kraayevelds went to Fire Station 13 to thank the responders there. It was important for them to follow through with the folks who took care of Dave Kraayeveld, although they don’t know who the dispatcher was. Cindy Kraayeveld said she thinks first responders are taken for granted, she said some folks don’t understand they’re putting a patient’s life before their own.
Gunsolus said it isn’t a common occurrence to get a thank you, but it’s so appreciated he always tries to make staff available to get those thank-yous, even if the responders will say it’s just their job.
He said the fire authority is pleased to receive so much support from residents.
“We go on these events everyday, a lot. Unfortunately it’s a common occurrence for us, but the person having the event, it’s a once in a lifetime event,” Gunsolus said.
“Someone just saved your life, could you imagine anything more dramatic for an individual?”