RENSSELAER — Eleven individuals, ranging from citizens to city employees and first responders, were awarded life-saving citations Monday for actions which kept alive a grateful Rensselaer man early last month.
That award ceremony took place at Rensselaer City Hall, where Mayor Stephen Wood summarized the heroic events that transpired on July 5.
On that day, Phoenix Paramedic Jennifer Knapp and EMT Greg Robinson were dispatched to Smith’s True Value Hardware along North McKinley Avenue to help Archie Risner, who had passed out. It was later reported that bystanders saw him suddenly collapse while working outside the business. He had suffered a massive heart attack.
Rensselaer Police Dispatcher Dawn Steinke told ambulance workers en route to the scene that Risner had experienced cardiac arrest and that CPR was being performed on him.
When the two ambulance workers arrived, they saw bystanders performing “high-quality CPR” on Risner. Those bystanders were identified as Bill Tryon, Louis Hooker and Kevin Cochran.
Around that time, personnel from the Rensselaer Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene, including firefighters Brandon Denton, Joshua Coulter, Justin Bednar and Logan Ritter. Also arriving on the scene around that time was Officer Brandt Schmid of the Rensselaer Police Department. All assisted with the life-saving efforts made for Risner.
While Risner was being administered CPR, a paramedic provided an electrical shock, and first responders eventually found a heartbeat. He was then airlifted to a hospital in Chicago, where doctors performed open heart surgery.
The next day, Risner’s breathing tube was removed, and he was eventually taken off sedation so that he could regain consciousness. After he woke up, doctors reported that Risner’s mental faculties were completely intact.
Another surgery was performed several days later, where he was given a triple bypass and, later, a pacemaker.
Despite the recent strain on his body, Risner was later released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
“Archie is alive today because of the team that worked on him,” Wood said Monday at City Hall. “This team is the dispatcher, bystanders, EMS, and fire department personnel who performed to the highest and most professional level that they could.”
Wood went on to note it is rare for patients that suffer a cardiac arrest to make it into surgery, “let alone to discharge with no expected complications remaining.”
“Your actions on this call are exemplary and you should be proud of your combined efforts,” Wood told the group. “Archie and his family are here to assist us in saying ‘thank you.’ I am proud of your dedication, commitment and professionalism provided to Archie Risner.”
Risner then stood up to address Wood and the crowded chamber where many had come to commend the heroes who saved his life.
“When I came to, I had several doctors in Chicago,” he remembered. “They told me that I was alive because of the people that (Wood) named.”
Speaking directly to that team, and visibly fighting back tears, he went on to say, “I can’t thank you enough. I saw a cardiologist today, as a matter of fact. It’s been only a month later. He said I was doing fantastic. He said to keep doing what I’m doing, and he didn’t want to see me again for six months. So, I thank you all.”
Tryon then leaned out from where he sat along a wall to quip, “I wasn’t going to let you leave me, Archie.”
Wendy Stevens, one of Risner’s daughters, stood up to address the team with a statement credited to his children.
“We would like to say thank you to these men and women who, on July 5, saved our dad’s life,” she read. “If it wasn’t for the quick response of Bill Tryon, Kevin Cochran and Louis Hooker in starting CPR, we would have lost our dad that day. Every doctor who spoke with us at the hospital said that he was alive because of the immediate CPR given. We believe God placed them at just the right moment in Dad’s life.”
The team not only saved Risner’s life, but also gave his relatives more time to know him, as Stevens’ statement noted.
“We cannot express enough our gratitude for you,” she read. “You gave us more time with our dad and gave our children more time with their grandpa.”
She went on to thank the various groups and departments who played a part in doing something for Risner and his relatives at one point or another.
While writing about the award ceremony in a post on Facebook, Brandon Denton acknowledged those who weren’t present to be honored.
“Everyone pictured (and a couple not pictured) played a huge part in this save,” he wrote. “And we could have not done it without the help of everyone. It was a big team effort.”
And before each member of that team had received their citation, Stevens let them know how her family would honor their work in the future.
“To honor all of you, we are going to become CPR certified,” she read, “so that, if needed, God would put us in the right place at the right time. Thank you all again, and God bless you. You are our heroes.”