Todd Parks figures if he had to have a heart attack, he was in the right place at the right time.
It was early in the morning on July 18 at Rancho Meats in Petaluma, where he works, and several friends were nearby.
"I could have been in my car, and I'd be dead. I could have been in the front yard, and I'd be dead," he said. "Every planet and star lined up for me.
"I had four buddies down there. They wanted to keep me alive and they did. They didn't hesitate."
Every one of them knew CPR. They leapt into action and likely saved Parks' life.
His good fortune underscores the importance of knowing the simple life-saving technique, said Jeff Schach, the Petaluma Fire Department battalion chief whose crew responded.
Less than 8 percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive, according to the American Heart Association. Bystander CPR performed immediately after a sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim's chance of survival.
But only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.
In a recent Leadership Petaluma project, Schach's group set a goal of teaching 1,000 people to perform hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation. That's the Heart Association's newer version of the technique that no longer requires mouth-to-mouth, which proved a deterrent for some.
Hands-only CPR — just chest compressions — has been proven to be as effective as CPR with breaths in treating adult cardiac arrest victims, the heart association said. It has recommended the hands-only version for teen and adult patients since 2008.
Parks' brother, Scott, and three others — Bill Bertolucci, Mike Sugars and brothers Jim and Rick Krist — will be honored for their actions at Monday's Petaluma City Council meeting.
Jim Krist called 911. Sugars, an off-duty San Francisco police officer, began chest compressions. Bertolucci made sure Parks' airway was clear. Rick Krist helped with compressions. Scott Parks monitored his brother's breathing and counted compressions.
"Every one of us had CPR training in the past," Scott Parks said.
The Krist brothers are coaches in Petaluma, as is Bertolucci, who owns Sonoma Marin Landscaping.
Todd Parks spent five days in the hospital after receiving a stent in an aortic artery. He lived to see his 46th birthday. And he's made serious changes to his lifestyle.
"If I would have done what the doctor asked me to years ago, I wouldn't have been in that position," he acknowledged. "I put my family through this when I didn't have to."
Before the cardiac arrest, Parks weighed more than 300 pounds. He smoked and had a family history of high blood-pressure. He worked two jobs.
"It's been life changing," he said. "I haven't even wanted a cigarette since I got sick. My family has quit smoking. It's brought me and my wife closer because we walk every single day together 45 minutes to an hour."
Parks, who also works for Clover Stornetta Farms, now weighs 265 pounds. He went back to work part-time this week.
"I watch hummingbirds because it makes me happy," he said. "It's those little things you bypass before something like this."
Schach continues to preach the values of learning hands-only CPR, promoting the effort with the phrase: "Anyone can be a hero, learn CPR."
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