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Quick thinking saves a life

Friends give collapsed teammate CPR on basketball court to sustain his pulse until paramedics arrive.

July 09, 2009|By Joseph Serna

If it had been any other night, he’d probably be dead. If he had decided to join another team, he could be dead. If even one thing had been different about Tuesday, he might not be here for his wife and kids.

But like friend Craig Covey said, “The moons, planets and the stars, everything was in alignment.”

It’s one of those stories you just can’t make up.

Tuesday night, Covey, an Orange County Fire Authority captain, was playing basketball with his team in a recreation league at the West Newport Gym off 15th Street near Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian.

Covey was on the floor playing, his team was up 10 points in the third quarter. His buddy from Long Beach Fire Department, Kevin Byrne, was on the bench getting ready to come in. Neither could see what was coming for their friend Dave, who asked his last name be withheld because it could jeopardize his employment. As the trio’s team dashed to defend their basket, Dave hung back, Byrne remembered.

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“Dave looked over at me and said, ‘Hey, I need a sub,’” he remembered.

Dave, a 38-year-old father of two who was recently married and in good shape, was hunched over with his hands on his knees, looking exhausted and turning to the referee to call a timeout.

He managed to call timeout, and that’s about as far as he got.

“I’m running down the court and I hear a loud thump behind me. I see my friend completely laid out on the floor,” Covey said.

Byrne said Dave just went limp, falling flat on his back and slamming his head into the hardwood.

Covey and Byrne rushed over while witnesses dialed 911.

His breathing slowed, it turned into a shallow snore, they said.

“It’s a snoring respiration where you can tell it’s the last bit of their brain stem trying to keep them breathing. It’s impending respiratory failure,” Covey said.

Dave’s shallow snore was complemented by a light pulse, until they couldn’t feel one at all. They were losing him fast.

“Your heart is quivering but you’re not pumping blood. Basically, it’s just before flat-lining,” Byrne said.

Immediately, the two men began performing CPR, first with Covey on the chest compressions and Byrne assisting with breathing. The men said from the time Dave collapsed to them performing CPR, maybe 30 seconds had passed.

“We never, never got anything,” Byrne said “It just felt like we were doing it forever.”

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