Nick Gillis was at the 15th tee on Petaluma’s picturesque Rooster Run Golf Course when his golfing partner told him a man had collapsed nearby.
“We kind of waited for a second and something didn’t look right,” the 38-year-old Petaluma resident said of the 9:45 a.m. Aug. 26 incident. “I just grabbed my phone and started walking that way.”
Gillis called 9-1-1 and broke into a run on the way to the 14th fairway as he talked to an emergency dispatcher. The man, who had gone into cardiac arrest, was barely breathing and making guttural sounds when Gillis arrived.
“At that point, the dispatcher on 9-1-1 was like … ‘those are the last breaths that guy is going to take, you need to do CPR right now,” he said.
Gillis, who had never administered CPR previously, jumped into action. A friend called the clubhouse while his other two golfing buddies helped Gillis keep the man alive until course staff arrived with an automated external defibrillator machine.
“I remember I just kept doing CPR the whole time,” he said. “It was kind of surreal. On the 14th hole, you have to come over a little bridge, and I saw the golf cart coming over there. Everyone was looking at each other and I just kept doing CPR. No one panicked and we just kind of kept working together.”
John Nice, a Professional Golfers’ Association associate who has worked at the course for 25 years, arrived with an AED, a machine that delivers electric shocks to allow normal heart rhythm to resume after cardiac arrest.
Nice had fielded the distress call in the clubhouse and grabbed the machine before hopping onto a golf cart and speeding out for the three-minute drive.
“You know, I didn’t really think too much about it until afterwards,” Nice, 46, said. “But I really think that whoever was working would have done exactly the same thing – we’ve all had training.”
He followed the automated commands from the AED, delivering three shocks to the victim before Petaluma firefighters arrived in an entourage of golf carts. The man, in his 50s, who was only identified as Robert, was breathing by the time firefighters arrived.
Using a fellow golfer’s truck, emergency personnel, golfers and staff took the man from the fairway to an ambulance waiting to transfer him to a Santa Rosa hospital’s cardiac center. Gillis has since talked to the man, who was released from the hospital last week and expressed gratitude about the save.
The man was not reachable for comment and no further details about his condition were released.
Petaluma Fire Department Battalion Chief Mike Medeiros lauded the use of an AED and the quick actions of bystanders.
“It’s been proven that when AEDS are in place and used early by people that know how to use them, the survival rate goes up dramatically,” he said.
Erin Hawkins, Petaluma Health Care District’s director of community health, said the Aug. 26 incident underscores the importance of the life-saving technology and education. In Petaluma, about 90 AEDS in businesses, schools and public facilities have been registered through the district, though she said she’d like to see that number increase.
The district also heads up a HeartSafe Community initiative to bring CPR and AED training and education to the community, while also registering and performing maintenance on existing machines.
To learn more about AED and CPR training, visit phcd.org/heartsafecommunity.php.