The afternoon of Jan. 2 is a blank spot in Dick Malin’s memory.
The Vancouver man remembers planning a workout at Marshall Community Center, but that’s it.
He doesn’t remember arriving at the gym. He doesn’t remember hopping onto a cardio machine. And he certainly doesn’t remember dying.
“When you suffer sudden death, those things happen,” Malin said. “You forget things.”
Peter Harrison is the stranger who has filled in some of those blank spots. He’s also the man who brought Malin back to life.
Harrison, 53, of Hazel Dell has been certified in CPR since he was 18. In the years since, he’s taught hundreds of people how to perform CPR as a volunteer instructor for the American Red Cross.
That CPR knowledge went to real use for the first time Jan. 2.
Malin, 79, is a gym regular, working out four or five days a week. After arriving at the gym that Thursday, Malin headed for the cardio equipment, climbed on a machine — a type of stationary bicycle that also requires arm movement — and got to work.
At that time, Harrison was on the other side of the gym. He was wrapping up his 90-minute workout with one more rep on the bench press when he heard a commotion.
Harrison’s wife, who had been working out near Malin, waved her husband over. Malin had collapsed mid-workout. His body slumped off the side of the machine. His feet were still buckled in the stirrups.
Malin was breathing, albeit shallowly. He had a faint pulse. He had also hit his head and vomited. Fearing damage to Malin’s head or spine, Harrison didn’t want to move the man. Instead, he stayed by Malin’s contorted body and monitored his condition while staff at the Marshall Center called paramedics.
But then Malin stopped breathing. Harrison and other bystanders freed Malin’s feet from the machine and got him on his back. Harrison, already exhausted from his workout, began chest compressions. Malin used an automated external defibrillator stored at the front desk to deliver a shock to Malin’s heart and, at the machine’s direction, resumed chest compressions.
Malin began breathing again on his own, but not for long. When his breathing stopped, the defibrillator delivered another shock and Harrison resumed chest compressions until paramedics arrived.
Malin was rushed to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where cardiologists determined he had suffered sudden cardiac arrest, which occurs when irregular heart rhythms cause the heart to stop beating.
Malin spent three days in a medically induced coma.
“The medical team didn’t know if his brain was damaged,” said Malin’s wife, Joyce Malin.
On the fourth day, Malin woke up. He recognized the people around him. He knew who he was. He just couldn’t remember what happened.
“To me, it’s truly a miracle,” Joyce Malin said.
Prior to the cardiac arrest, Malin had been in great health. He never showed any sign of heart problems.
“That’s what’s scary,” Malin said. “The last thing the cardiologist said was, ‘We really don’t know why this happened.'”
Now Malin has a defibrillator implanted in his chest, a small device that will administer a shock should Malin’s heart once again start beating irregularly. Other than the device, which requires Malin to stay away from strong magnets, and a chest still sore from the CPR compressions, Malin shows no signs of having suffered sudden cardiac arrest.
He’s among the lucky ones. In 2013, less than 10 percent of people who experienced cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survived, according to the American Heart Association.
“We owe Dick’s life to Peter,” Joyce Malin said. “We’re just forever so grateful.”
Harrison and the Malins hope their positive outcome will encourage more people to receive CPR training, just in case there is another Dick Malin who needs lifesaving CPR.
“The more people that have CPR, the more likely we are to have outcomes like this,” Harrison said.