Grateful for one more ride
Even as he pedals up the grueling hills on the Olmstead Loop Saturday, you can expect to see at least a faint smile on Doug Martin’s face.
The 38-year-old Auburn resident has a new appreciation for the Coolest 24 Mountain Bike Race this year as he competes for the third time in the event’s four-year history. It will be his first race since a harrowing incident in February that left him in a coma for two full days and unsure if he would ever ride again.
An avid mountain biker and a veteran of more than half a dozen century rides, Martin was struck by the unthinkable while playing a game of dodgeball at Sky Zone gym in Rocklin, where he and his family are regulars.
Martin began feeling faint and within minutes he was on the ground, unconscious and not breathing. The heady response of his wife Cheri and Sky Zone employee Eric Kassis made all the difference over the several minutes that followed.
Cheri initiated CPR before Kassis ran over a few minutes later and took over. The Sierra College student had finished an EMT course at Sierra and got his EMT license in December.
“I saw he was blue and assessed some of his vitals,” Kassis explained. “He wasn’t breathing and he had no pulse. I looked to Cheri and told her, ‘We’re going to start CPR.’ That went on for a long time.”
Another Sky Zone employee brought over an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and after several shocks to the heart with the device, Martin’s pulse returned. Medics arrived on the scene and transported Martin to Sutter Roseville Medical Center, but his battle wasn’t over yet.
“With the condition he was in, I wasn’t sure how he’d come out,” Kassis said.
Martin remained unconscious for two full days as concerned family and friends sat by helpless. When he did wake up he was almost immediately sent to surgery at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento. Believing he may have suffered the heart attack as a result of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, doctors implanted an ICD in his heart.
“Basically it will detect if there’s a problem with my heart and shock me,” Martin explained. “They did a lot of tests and they still don’t know what caused (the heart attack) for sure.”
Martin was able to begin light exercise six weeks after his surgery, but didn’t get on his bike until earlier this month. The setback in his training was only a minor nuisance considering the odds he faced after his surgery.
“The statistics are scary — the survival rate (for a heart attack) is about five percent,” Martin said. “And of that five percent, most people have some level of brain damage. Most people have some kind of indication that something is wrong.”
That wasn’t the case for Martin, who works out several times a week and watches his diet. He and his brother Travis took fourth in the two-man division at the Coolest 24 last year. The computer programmer was certainly not a likely candidate for a sudden heart attack.
“You kind of have your mortality thrown in your face,” Martin said. “But I’ve been redlining my heart since I was a baby.”
He credits the quick action of his wife, Kassis and the other Sky Zone employees along with the medics and doctors that tended to him for saving his life.
Since his scare, Martin’s become a major proponent of CPR training and AEDs — the device that helped save his life. According to the American Heart Association, more than 1,000 people suffer heart attacks each day in the U.S. If Sky Zone had not provided an AED on site, the CPR may not have been enough to keep him alive.
“They’re relatively inexpensive, but a lot of public businesses don’t have them,” Martin said.
Kassis said his EMT training and the time he spent last summer with the Auburn City Fire Department were keys to his response to Martin’s emergency. The experience re-affirmed his belief that CPR works.
“Everyone needs to at least take a CPR class and learn how to use an AED,” Kassis said. “In this case it truly saved his life. Everyone should know the basics. It’s not hard. If everyone had that knowledge, we could save a lot more lives.”
Martin and his family have gained a good friend in Kassis over the past few months. They played paintball together last weekend. The Rocklin High graduate said he’s gained a unique perspective from the ordeal.
“It makes me really happy that we’re keeping in touch,” Kassis said. “The whole family is amazing and I saw that when we were doing CPR. The way Cheri took care of him and her kids – she was great. It’s helped me. I have a higher appreciation for life now.”
Martin will spend eight hours appreciating life on the trail Saturday. Unlike in years past, he doesn’t have lofty aspirations, but the aching muscles at the finish line will feel better than ever.
“The first time I got on my bike there was concern, but I remembered how to ride and everything was good in the universe,” Martin said. “I lost a couple months of training, but I can’t complain. My goal is not a podium finish, it’s more just being thankful I can participate this year.”
ARD’s CPR Classes
What: CPR 12+ — This class teaches adult, infant and child CPR. The adult CPR includes training with the automated external defibrillator. Fee includes the cost of an American Red Cross certificate, good for two years.
When: June 12, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; August 7, 9 a.m.-4p.m.
September 18, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Where: Canyon View Community Center
Cost: $48 for residents, $53 for non-residents