Del.- A Florida vacation for a group of friends turned into a life-changing experience after one man suffered a heart attack and was subsequently saved by his best friend.
Ricky Bryan and Sean Harrison have been best friends since 9th
grade. The two were on a fishing trip in the Florida Keys along with Damien Richard and others. January 2nd
--the day Bryan would go on to have his heart attack--began with a toothache.
"I asked him if he wanted breakfast," recalls Richard. "He said 'No I'm not hungry, but I have a toothache. Nobody caught that or thought that was abnormal."
The toothache would turn out to be Bryan's only symptom before he went into cardiac arrest. As Richard and the others ate breakfast inside their RV, they heard a thump that would turn out to be Bryan, who had fallen against the camper.
"We all shuffled out. As soon as Sean rolled him over I just saw the color of Rick," Richard continues. "I was on the phone with 911 as soon as I heard wasn’t breathing."
Simultaneously, Harrison began performing CPR on his best friend.
"Instinctively I knew I had to start compressions," the former volunteer firefighter tells WRDE. "So I started and I got maybe 10-15 seconds and I noticed he was aspirating out of his mouth and it wasn't going back in. I kind of started freaking because I didn't want my friend to suffocate."
Richard found another person at the campsite who knew CPR and ran over to help Harrison. When first responders arrived on scene later, they told the gentlemen their actions most likely saved Bryan's life.
"I'm blessed. I'm here," Bryan says. "One out of ten of me make it through this."
In sharing their story, the three friends hope they inspire others to learn CPR.
"The doctors tell him it's a ten percent chance of somebody having a heart attack outside the hospital the hospital and surviving," says Harrison. "Why can't it be 20?"
Bryan also has only fond words for the University of Miami Health Center,
where he was transported, and the Monroe County Fire Department staffers who treated him and airlifted him to the hospital. The first responders have since won a presitigious award
for their actions that day.
"I had coded five times and I was defibulated 10 times," Bryan recalls. "I was worked on, and no one gave up on me. So they get--they deserve the credit for this."
Richard sees the circumstances surrounding the heart attack as almost eerily miraculous, as the gentlemen were supposed to be heading home earlier and could have been stuck in traffic when Bryan suffered cardiac arrest, or been hours from paramedics.
"Everything just happened, I don't want to say for a reason but simultaneously had to happen that way," he says. "The ambulance being that close [and] thank god we weren't on the road traveling home."
Bryan doesn't recall much from the day itself, and is expected to make a full recovery. But forever ingrained in him is the knowledge that his best friend saved his life, making their lifelong friendship that much more meaningful.
"Besides my kids being born it was the biggest thing in my life," he says. "I am living today because of him, plain and simple."
To learn more about CPR, click here.