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Local resident understands importance of CPR training

Secret Town man helped save woman from drowning
By: Marci Seither, Special to the Journal
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You never know when an emergency will strike. Secret Town resident Troy Alvarez knows that all too well. Today, he is CPR certified, but it took rescuing a woman from near death to realize how important the training was. Alvarez will always remember Nov. 15 as the day he helped pull Lisa Lucas’ lifeless body from the frigid Monterey Bay. The day started out like any other day for Lisa and John Lucas, a Milpitas couple who are both experienced divers. John Lucas recalled holding onto his wife’s hand underwater before she released her grasp. “When I looked over, Lisa was floating upward so I followed her,” John said in a recent phone interview. Once on the surface John realized that something was wrong. Deadly wrong. That is when he began his urgent cry for help. It was that almost inaudible plea that caught the attention of Alvarez, who was at Monterey to take an advanced diving class. “The class had just entered the water and was huddled around the instructor,” said Alvarez, a 38-year-old network engineer for Wells Fargo Bank. “We were ready to submerge and begin going through our skills when I heard something that sounded like a cry for help.” Identifying sounds as they bounced across the water was next to impossible. “The second time I heard the call for help, I had that feeling that something was seriously wrong,” he said. “Even though we were huddled together, no one else had heard it. The third time I was looking in the right direction and saw what appeared to be a man in the water. I looked at the instructor who was 10 feet away, pointed in their direction and took off swimming. When I got closer, I realized he was towing someone behind him.” Alvarez was wearing full scuba gear, complete with air tank and weights when he made the 500-yard swim. “When I got to the person he was exhausted, he couldn’t even respond.” Alvarez said. “I told him, ‘I am here to help.’ At that point he just handed her to me. I had not taken the rescue diving class yet, so I didn’t know what to do, except yell toward the shore for someone to call 9-1-1.” Upon taking the lifeless, wetsuit-clad body, Alvarez immediately reached around her waist, grasped the release on her belt and pulled. Dropping the weight belt allowed Lisa to regain full buoyancy in the water. “Her head was semi-submerged and she was completely unresponsive. I didn’t know what else to do but to swim toward shore as fast as I could. When I got to shallow water, two men came out in wetsuits and fins, released the rest of her equipment and carried Lisa to the beach where a crowd had already begun to gather.” One of the men who assisted Alvarez started CPR until the paramedics arrived. That evening Troy and his wife, Peggy, went out to dinner where he mulled over the day’s events. “I knew that there was nothing more I could have done, but (I thought) someone died doing something that I enjoyed,” he said. “The next day when I got back on the boat, I found out that the woman I thought had drowned was alive! I called the hospital and police station, and later found out that she was in a coma.” The Emergency Medical Technician report stated that Lisa had been without a pulse for as long as 45 minutes. Later, doctors gave Lisa a 10 percent chance of ever coming out of the coma, and due to what they concurred was a stroke, she would be severely brain damaged. Two weeks later, Lisa woke up. Eventually she regained her motor and verbal skills, and her sight. “I am living proof that CPR saves lives.” Lisa Lucas said recently from the Care Meridian Rehab Facility in Gilroy. “There is no explanation, except that it was a miracle.” Lisa is looking forward to being home soon as well as back in the water. “God has a plan for my life, I want to live each day to the fullest,” she said. The incident was life changing for more than just Lisa Lucas. Alvarez is now a certified rescue diver and CPR certified. Lisa’s husband, John, is also scheduled to take a CPR class in March. No one can anticipate when or where an emergency can happen. All one can do is take active steps to be prepared. “If it weren’t for those who quickly responded, I would not be alive.” Lisa Lucas said. “I can’t even begin to tell everyone involved in my rescue ‘Thank You.’” ---------- CPR Saturday What: Free CPR training from the American Red Cross Sacramento Sierra Chapter When: March 7, each session lasts 2-3 hours with sessions starting at 8, 9:30 and 11 a.m., and 12:30 and 2 p.m. Must pre-register by calling (916) 368-3130 or (530) 885-9392 ext. 102. Where: Oracle campus, 1001 Sunset Blvd. in Rocklin. Info: www.sacsierraredcross.org A raffle will be held in conjunction with the annual event. For tickets call Jeanine Odell, office coordinator, Placer District, at (530) 885-9392 or go to the American Red Cross office at 457 Highway 49, Suite 8, in Auburn.