Standing in front of the people who saved her life, a Franklin woman had a rare opportunity.
Cindy Garrett was giving a massage to a customer at her downtown Franklin business, Healing Touch Massage, when she suddenly went into cardiac arrest. Through quick action by police, firefighters and emergency personnel, she survived the ordeal.
Throughout her recovery, Garrett has wanted to meet her lifesavers and thank them.
“It was something that was on my mind ever since I was in the hospital,” she said. “I was thinking ‘I’ve gotta meet all of these people and give them great big hugs and tell them how appreciative I am.’ I wouldn’t be there without them.”
Garrett had the chance Monday at Franklin Fire Station No. 22. One year and one day after the incident, she met with Franklin police and firefighters and Seals Ambulance emergency medical services personnel who saved her life.
“It means everything to me,” Garrett said. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of each and every one of these guys and I (that) don’t pray for them. It is just wonderful.”
At about 10:50 a.m. on April 10, 2021, Garrett was giving a massage to a customer when she suddenly went into cardiac arrest.
Franklin Police Officer Steve Statelets arrived first, as he was only a few blocks away when the call came in, he said. He found Garrett lying on the floor displaying signs of cardiac arrest. He radioed dispatch to send medical personnel immediately and started CPR, Statelets said.
Jesse Brown, another Franklin police officer, arrived about one minute after Statelets. Together, the two worked on Garrett until firefighters and EMS arrived, according to a Franklin police report on the lifesaving incident.
Brown administered rescue breaths with a portable respirator, while Statelets administered CPR. By the time Franklin fire and Seals arrived the two had administered six sets of breaths, and Garrett had a pulse, the report says.
“I have (administered lifesaving CPR) before but it is not on record like this one,” Statelets said. “In our profession, unfortunately, we do CPR a lot more than we want to. But you take the training for it and hope you remember what to do. It all worked out that day.”
Three firefighters and three Seals personnel worked together to prepare Garrett for a safe transport to Franciscan Health Indianapolis. Franklin firefighters Bob Duhamell, Dennis Bordenkecher and Andrew Tames responded, along with Denise Anderson, Ethan Brooks and Miranda Jansen of Seals.
“We worked together with the fire department — it is a group effort with a cardiac arrest,” Anderson said. “You have the CPR issue and then we are intubating, starting IVs and giving meds. We work together as a group to do that.”
First responders were originally going to take her to Community Hospital South, but sent her to Franciscan Health Indianapolis because Community South was diverting patients at the time. That turned out to be for the best, because doctors determined Garrett required open heart surgery, which the Franciscan Health was able to do onsite, Anderson said.
Getting her to the right hospital, coupled with the almost immediate CPR administered by Franklin police, are both major contributors to Garrett’s survival, Anderson said.
Garrett doesn’t recall much between the incident and waking up at the hospital. She was told later that they worked quickly and diligently to get her to the hospital quickly to give her the best chance of recovery.
Their work helped Garrett survive the long odds after a cardiac arrest of this magnitude, said John Garrett, her husband.
“They said she had a less than 7% chance of making it, much less a full recovery. But she was back to work on July 15,” John Garrett said. “As far as her recovery went I watched it and she never had a bad day. It was incrementally getting better every day, every day a tiny step.”
Though Monday was Garrett’s first time meeting the whole group, she had a chance encounter with Statelets at Grillerz, a Nineveh restaurant, several months after the incident.
“We kind of broke down together and I gave her a big ‘ole hug,” Statelets said.
Both John and Cindy Garrett were moved at meeting the first responders. Likewise, the first responders were grateful for the chance to meet her, as it is rare to see patients again like this. The nature of the job makes it hard for most patients to express their gratitude in the moment and most don’t go out of their way to find their lifesavers like this.
“I’ve been doing this for 36 years,” Anderson said. “We had a cardiac arrest not long before this and I have no idea what happened to them; that’s usually what happens. We never find out. This is great, I’ve never had this happen before.”
The Garretts brought gift bags for the responders, in addition to giving them the intangible gift of showing that their work really has a huge impact on survivors.
“It is very nice to hear what the outcome was and that she pulled through,” Jensen said. “EMS can be a thankless job. When you have a patient who is awake they might say ‘thank-you’ but for something as big as a cardiac arrest we never hear a thank you for it.”