Man reunited with those who saved his life

July 17, 2009 6:31:40 PM PDT
A Park Ridge man had the chance Friday to thank the complete strangers who helped him after he had a heart attack. For the first time Lars Larsen came face-to-face with a team of paramedics at Lutheran General Hospital who saved his life a little more than a week ago.

"God did not want Mr. Larsen to die. He had somebody next to him," said cardiologist Dr. Bruce Greenspan.

That special someone was Katie Laird. She was having lunch in the same Park Ridge restaurant as Larsen when he suddenly collapsed. Larsen sprang into action, delivering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to keep oxygen flowing to Larsen's brain.

"I can think. I can work. I'm a whole man again because I had oxygen in my brain for that one minute, and that's what you gave me," Larsen said to Laird Friday. "And you didn't have to do that."

But the way Katie Laird sees it, she had no choice. The high school Spanish teacher has been certified in CPR since she was 15 years old, and she has been a lifeguard. As fate would have it, she went through recertification just two months ago.

"It was like, 'Oh, my gosh. This guy is going to die.' We worked it out, and after that, I went back to the booth and cried," Laird told ABC7 Chicago.

And then everything went exactly as it had to. Police arrived with a portable defibrillator to jump-start Larsen's heart, and he was whisked into surgery in less than an hour.

Because everything that had to go right did, the 51-year-old has no permanent damage from the incident.

"I haven't had a physical since I was 21 years old," Larsen said.

While he's grateful to be alive, Larsen says he still fears he could lose everything, including his house, because he doesn't have health insurance as a self-employed handyman. However, that is a worry for another day, he says. Friday, he felt like the luckiest man alive.


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