As Colorado Springs attorney Lisa Kirkman drove down a two-lane road, she marveled at the bicyclist cruising just ahead of her.
Traveling more than 28 mph – faster than she was driving her car – Kirkman was awed by the man’s physical acumen. Then, in a blink, the man fell over, crashing to the dirt on the side of the road.
A former prosecutor who now is senior assistant county attorney dedicated to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, Kirkman put her blinker on and pulled to the side of the road. She was quickly joined by Carlos Gutierrez, an El Paso County Sheriff’s deputy and community relations officer, who happened to be riding by in his car and just happened to have been re-certified in CPR a month earlier. Another good Samaritan, a woman, joined them.
The trio of helpers hovered over the bicyclist, who they found out later was Dan Geery, a 60-year-old athlete from Monument, who was lying on his side – his feet still in the shoes that were locked into the bicycle pedals.
Kirkman and the woman worked furiously to free Geery’s feet from his shoes. Gutierrez radioed for an ambulance and began CPR.
Then Kirkman, who has delivered eloquence time and again in the courtroom, began to speak words of encouragement and support to a man she did not know.
“I bet you have grandchildren. I bet you have a wife. You need to be here,’’ she told him as he lay unconscious.
The color had vanished from Geery’s face, but Gutierrez kept up the chest compressions. As paramedics loaded the bicyclist into the ambulance, Gutierrez heard a paramedic say: “We have a slight rhythm.’’
By that time, Sheriff’s Lt. J.D. Ross had arrived on the scene. He loaded up Geery’s bicycle and sheriff’s deputies escorted the ambulance, stopping traffic at intersections, to help get the man they found on the side of the road to UCHealth Memorial Hospital.
Lt. Ross had rifled through some identification and telephoned Ann, Geery’s wife, to tell her what happened. When Ann got to Memorial, a doctor told her that her husband of 19 years — a rock-solid, 154-pound physically fit former salesman who worked out three or four times a week — was the sickest man in the hospital.
Getting people who have suffered a cardiac event into the heart catheterization lab at UCHealth is practiced every day at the hospital. Expert caregivers in cardiac health stand at the ready, waiting for people like Geery. The quicker they can move the patient to the heart catheterization lab, where they can thread a tiny tube into the arteries to see any potential blockage, the quicker the artery can be opened. For this team, faster is the goal because it saves lives.
Dr. Russell Linsky, a UCHealth Memorial Hospital cardiologist, advanced the catheter and found one artery was 90 percent blocked and another artery was 75 percent closed. He placed two stents, a tubular support placed inside a blood vessel, canal, or duct to aid healing or relieve an obstruction. Four days later, Dr. Jorge Davalos, also a cardiologist, placed two more stents, restoring proper blood flow to Geery’s heart.
“These are the scariest moments of what I do, but they are also the best moments,’’ Linsky said. “This is why I do what I do.’’
Geery went to the Intensive Care Unit. He doesn’t remember anything from a week before his heart attack to about a week after. In the hospital, Ann told him again and again that he had a heart attack. He spent about a week in the hospital and then went home. He is enrolled in Memorial’s cardiac rehabilitation program to grow stronger and get back to normal.
As part of his recovery, he wanted to meet the people who saved his life. Last week, he reconnected with Dr. Linsky.
“You fixed me,’’ Geery said as the two men embraced in a quick hug.
“You got lucky in a million ways,’’ Linsky said. “We are happy that we were here, and I’m proud of the program that we have built here – it’s all about speed. The quicker we provide care, the better the outcome.’’
Geery said of the staff: “They stick to you – they treated me like an athlete and not a 60-year-old guy. Their attitude was: We need to get you back on the bike because that’s what you do.’’
Geery also stopped by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to meet Kirkman, Gutierrez and Ross, and greeted each of them with an embrace.
“I like you with color in your face,’’ Kirkman said.
“How are you feeling?’’ Kirkman asked
Geery said his ribs are still a little sore.
“I’m sorry,’’ Gutierrez said, recalling the CPR. “I felt some of your ribs crack.’’
Gutierrez told Geery that he had just been re-certified in CPR. He explained that all deputies take a three-hour CPR class but they never think they’ll actually be called upon to administer the life-saving technique.
Geery said the experience has changed his life, and he hopes that others will be inspired by his story to do something to make themselves, or the world, a little better.
“If you think about it the fact is that there may be no tomorrow, that maybe I’ll be a little better for myself. Maybe I’ll learn CPR, maybe I’ll change my diet, maybe I’ll go get a check-up with my doctor,’’ Geery said.
El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder also greeted Dan and Ann Geery and presented them with law enforcement “coins,’’ – medallions that law enforcement officers provide – often to others law enforcement agencies and citizens — to show appreciation and camaraderie.
“Give him a raise,’’ Ann said with a smile and a gesture toward Gutierrez.
Ann spent a few minutes showing Kirkman, Gutierrez and Ross photographs of their family – the generations. On the side of the road that day, Kirkman’s words of encouragement were spot on. Dan and Ann have four spunky grandchildren.
Ann then gave Kirkman and Gutierrez gift baskets, and she presented a special card for Ross.
In the baskets, there were hand-written letters from Addison and Chloe – Ann’s daughters and Geery’s step-daughters. Chloe said in her letter that Dan is the best dad anyone could ask for. He taught her how to ride a dirt bike and attended all of her school track meets.
“You are personally responsible for holding my family together. You kept my family together,’’ she said.