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Steve's heart stopped five times. Quick thinking by his wife helped saved his life

Annette and Steve Cline talk to 911 dispatcher Chris Cook months after their ordeal.
Mónica Muñoz
/
SDFD Communications Department
Annette and Steve Cline talk to 911 dispatcher Chris Cook months after their ordeal.

Steve Cline was at home with his wife Annette last December when his heart suddenly stopped.

Although she had no medical training, Annette sprung into action and gave him CPR for six minutes until an ambulance arrived.

"The love of my life saved my life," the 70-year-old said.

Annette credits 911 dispatcher Chris Cook for the lifesaving advice as he talked her through how to get her husband's heart beating again. She said he also made sure to keep her calm and focused while she went to work.

"It started with the dispatcher saying the perfect words to me," Annette said. "And the way he talked to me was like, you know, 'Put your feelings aside, just get into action and follow orders.'"

Cook coached her through what's called "hands-only CPR."

It's a technique the American Heart Association says is effective like conventional CPR, but is much easier for those without a medical background to perform.

Once in the care of the paramedics, Steve needed to be resuscitated five times in just 43 minutes after going into cardiac arrest. He then underwent acute rehab — which included physical, occupational and speech therapies — and has now made a full recovery.

Last week, almost nine months after the ordeal, the Clines were able to meet the first responders who helped them that night, including the fire captain, members of the ambulance crew, and Cook.

Left to right: SDFD firefighter Bree Moreland, SDFD firefighter/paramedic Roy Staten, SDFD Capt. Jonathan Harris, Steve Cline, Annette Cline, Falck paramedic Andrew McClanahan, and Falck EMT John Trevino III.
SDFD Communications Department / Mónica Muñoz
/
Mónica Muñoz
Left to right: SDFD firefighter Bree Moreland, SDFD firefighter/paramedic Roy Staten, SDFD Capt. Jonathan Harris, Steve Cline, Annette Cline, Falck paramedic Andrew McClanahan, and Falck EMT John Trevino III.

Cook gives all the credit to Annette, though. He said that if she hadn't acted so quickly, the outcome could have been far worse.

"I got to talk to her for the first time. I said, I'm not the hero, the firefighters aren't the hero ... you're the hero," Cook said.

Now Annette and Steve are planning to write a book about their experience. They said their goal was to encourage others to make the most of the time they had left in their lives.

"We want to touch a million people's lives on this," Steve said. "Because it's such an 'I don't know why it happened' moment. But it was so powerful for us, and there's got to be a reason why it happened. And so, we want to share it."

But before all that, Annette expressed her gratitude to the first responders with a gift – a box of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The chocolatey treat was the Steve and Annette's way of saying thank you.
SDFD Communications Department / Mónica Muñoz
/
Mónica Muñoz
The chocolatey treat was the Steve and Annette's way of saying thank you.

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