Oct. 13, 2012, was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right.
Chad Jackson was in a foul mood. The truck he relied upon for his summer lawn-mowing business was broken down. Some of his customers wanted their lawn mowed, which exacerbated his grumpiness. It was October. Who mows their lawn in October? But the customer is always right.
So, he stopped by his father’s place to borrow his Suburban to cart the equipment trailer. That day of all days, his father, Ken Jackson, asked if he could accompany his son.
His mother insisted. “Your dad wants to spend time with you,” she said. “Let him go along.”
Irritated, Chad, 32, relented.
The father-son duo worked in tandem to manicure the lawn of a home on Avenue E. Dad, 66, mowed the front; Chad clipped the back.
As they finished about 11:30 a.m. the elder Jackson took one staggered step, collapsed on the ground and rolled to his left side. His eyeglasses were askew on his forehead, minus a left lens, which had popped out and lacerated his eye. Blood and vomit pooled around him. His nose was broken.
“Don’t die on me, Dad,” Chad pleaded. “Don’t die on me, Dad.”
Ken’s heart had stopped.
Chad, who coaches girls and boys basketball and girls volleyball and is certified in CPR, began performing chest compressions. As he cradled his cellphone between his ear and shoulder, he dialed 911 and continued to pump his father’s chest. Ken was “growling,” “yelling” and making “strange sounds.”
“His eyes were open but he wasn’t responsive,” Chad said. “He wasn’t looking at me. Nothing.”
As he pumped his father’s chest, Chad’s mind was racing. Each thump of his hand was accompanied by a thought. What if Dad didn’t make it? What if Dad wasn’t the same? What if Grandpa wasn’t there for Chad’s two children, Ellie and Isaac?
Ken remembers nothing, not even mowing the lawn that morning.
“I lost about three days of my life,” Ken said.
Chad continued to pump his father’s chest until the ambulance arrived and transported him to Billings Clinic, minutes away from where they had been mowing the lawn.
If Chad had followed his normal routine that morning, they would have been on the city’s West End. In his self-described stubbornness, he did the opposite of what he usually did.
“It was fantastic,” Ken said. “The timing was perfect in every respect.”
Some plaque in his heart dislodged and blocked his main artery, causing Ken, who has worked the past 15 years on getting his blood pressure and cholesterol in check, to go into cardiac arrest.
He was one of the lucky ones. Sudden cardiac arrest results in the deaths of more than 650 adults and children each day in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.
“It doesn’t get more serious than that,” said Dr. Ronny Jiji, a cardiologist at Billings Clinic, who treated Ken. Had it not been for Chad’s knowledge of CPR, Ken likely would not have had a chance at survival.
“It was key,” Jiji said. “Immediate, rapid, high-quality CPR is lifesaving for an out-of-hospital arrest.”
Between 75 and 80 percent of all sudden cardiac arrest cases happen at home, so being trained to perform CPR can mean the difference between life and death for a loved one, according to the AHA. CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival.
Survival of sudden cardiac arrest can be as high as 90 percent if treatment is administered within four to six minutes of the arrest.
Ken is living proof.
His “owie,” as 2½-year-old Ellie called it, is healed. He is back to work full time as a licensed clinical professional counselor at Billings Clinic.
“How much more special can it be that your oldest son saves your life?” Ken said. “It’s incredible. It’s just incredible. He saved my life. We have a special bond as a result.”
As it turned out, Oct. 13, 2012 was, in the end, a day when everything seemed to go exactly right.