'Oh my God! He's not breathing!'
Those were Karen Ye's first words when she found her boyfriend Bob Stewert unconscious in the bathroom of their Lake Oswego home. He had suffered a heart attack and was only minutes away from death.
But thanks to remarkably fast and efficient action by Ye and Lake Oswego Police Department Dispatch Operator Molly Powers, Stewert is alive and already back at his unique profession: Rescuing cats from high places.
'It happened on June 29th,' Stewert said. 'I don't remember that day at all.'
Ye remembers it very well.
'He said he didn't feel very good,' Ye said. 'I took his pulse. He didn't look very good. I said I thought I ought to take him to a hospital.'
But a heart attack? It didn't seem possible. Although he was 58 years old, Stewert was in superb shape, his blood pressure was better than perfect, his diet excellent, his body compact, slim and strong. Just the day before he had saved a cat by doing what he loves - climbing trees.
'I have a doctor friend that I've known for 30 years,' Stewert said. 'I gave him all my physical stuff. He doesn't know how I got a heart attack.'
But Ye 'heard a big clunk' in the bathroom and soon was desperately dialing 9-1-1 for help. She connected with Powers and soon was receiving instructions on how to give CPR.
Stewert's chances of surviving were, frankly, bad. The statistics were very much against him. Lake Oswego has an unusually high rate of saving patients' lives with CPR, but it is still only 30 percent. In other cities that number sinks drastically. Ye noted that save rate in New York City is only 2 percent.
But Ye had no time to consult the latest statistics. She got on the phone with Powers, and suddenly Stewert's luck began getting much better. Powers had just gone through intensive training on CPR response, and Ye was superb at following her instructions.
'Molly talked me through the CPR,' Ye said. 'On my third try Bob made a choking sound, so at least he was breathing.'
'Karen was amazingly calm,' Powers said. 'She was one of the best people I've ever dealt with on the phone. I told her, 'We'll do CPR,' and she said, 'OK, let's do it.' The faster you can do CPR the better it is for preventing brain damage and heart damage.
'Karen started right away. She's just a rock star.'
Soon after Ye had saved Stewert's life, Lake Oswego Police Officer Denton Veach drove up and helped Ye drag Stewert to the front room. By great fortune, Veach had seven years experience as a paramedic. Soon help showed up in force from the Lake Oswego Fire Department, with 10 firefighters preparing Stewert for transporting to St. Vincent's Hospital. There, surgery to unblock a totally clogged main artery was successful.
'Everything went really smoothly,' Ye said. 'He had no permanent heart damage or brain damage.'
Two weeks later Stewert was rescuing a feral cat that had climbed 60 feet up a tree. Life was back to normal.
The final chapter of Stewert's saga would be called 'gratitude.' On Monday he and Ye were on hand when Powers was honored by the LOPD and LOFD for her outstanding work. They personally thanked Powers.
'I usually don't get closure on calls like I did on this one,' Powers said. 'When these things happen I pretend that everyone lives. This time it was neat that the LOFD called and said, 'It looks like he'll make it.' '
Powers received a plaque, too.
'It said, 'Good job. You saved a life.''