GREAT FALLS — On a snowy October afternoon last year, Darin Kittleson had returned home early from bow hunting. With his ATV, he helped plow his neighbor’s driveways, including that of Bill and Augie Records.
The Recordses were relaxing at home when Augie noticed something was not right with her husband Bill.
“All of a sudden Bill was making these gasping noises, about four of them and pushing back in the recliner and then nothing,” said Augie. “So I went over and shook him a bunch of times and no response at all.”
Augie noticed Darin outside and got his attention. While Bill was in cardiac arrest, she called 911, and Darin immediately sprang into action: “I came in the house and recognized he wasn’t breathing. He was very gray in color,” said Darin. “I just started CPR as best I could. The folks at 911, the dispatch, they were excellent, they helped us to get our rhythms correct.”
Darin helped rescuers until enough emergency personnel were available to assist Bill, who had suffered a heart attack a year earlier.
Advanced cardiac life support measures were quickly initiated, and Bill was placed on a monitor which identified a lethal arrhythmia requiring immediate electrical shock.
Timing played a key role in the near tragic event.
“My wife had to be there,” said 73-year-old Bill. “I wasn’t in the garage; I wasn’t out doing something else. It was the last day of archery season, I wasn’t archery hunting. I was there, Darin shows up at that exact time.”
The quick emergency response was led by Dr. Dustin Stewart, an emergency medicine physician at Benefis Health System and the medical director for the Gore Hill Volunteer Fire Department, Belt Volunteer Fire Department and Great Falls Emergency Services.
On Tuesday, he presented Darin with a lifesaving award for his willingness to help so quickly.
“Old versions of CPR had people doing mouth-to-mouth and a lot of people are afraid of doing that,” said Dr. Stuart. “Right now, we emphasize ‘push hard, push fast.’ Chest compressions alone can be lifesaving. The big this is early 9-1-1 intervention. Getting the people to volunteer inside your community or getting or the professionals to be able to get there to help out.”
Darin says he was not seeking an award. He’s happy his longtime friend will be around for another bow season. He hopes his actions inspire others to learn CPR and is thankful for the emergency responders.
“We had so many people there in minutes it was just amazing, "said Darin. “We’re fortunate to have the first responders we have.”
“There’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these people that are volunteers and professionals in what they do,” said Bill.
Dr. Stuart encourages people to learn as much as they can about CPR. The American Red Cross provides training; click here to learn more.