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Durangoans answer call of duty in ‘shocking’ rescue

Former firefighter and admin assistant save man suffering cardiac arrest at La Plata County Fairgrounds
Angela Reynolds responded within a minute with a defibrillator when she received an automated message informer her that a man was in cardiac arrest outside her office at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. Peter Issenberg had taken a road trip in his Jaguar from his home in Massachusetts to drive the Million Dollar Highway. (Courtesy of Simmie Issenberg)

It was around 11:30 a.m. Friday when Angela Reynolds, senior administrative assistant at the La Plata County Fairgrounds and Extension Office, got an automated call – there was a man in cardiac arrest near the ball field.

Reynolds ripped the defibrillator off the wall, grabbed Brad Sablosky, the Wilderness First Responder instructor teaching a course on the grounds that day, and sprinted toward the bleachers.

“It was just outside the door that I passed Angela and she handed me the AED like a football,” Sablosky said.

When Sablosky, Reynolds and the second Wilderness First Responder instructor arrived at the scene, they found Peter Issenberg, 66, collapsed on the ground. The responding Durango Police Department officer was performing chest compressions. The only other person on scene was a young man who had called 911.

“He was unresponsive and incoherent by the time we were there,” Reynolds said.

The three took over, removing Issenberg’s shirt as one Wilderness First Responder instructor continued chest compressions. The automated device gave instructions to shock Issenberg – a good sign, Sablosky said – and they did so, twice.

Within a few minutes, first responders from the Durango Fire Protection District arrived and prepared to move Issenberg. They loaded him into an ambulance and took him to Mercy Hospital, where he is recovering.

According to his wife, Simmie Issenberg, Peter had read about the Million Dollar Highway and decided to take a road trip from their home outside Boston in his Jaguar.

“He loves being in the car and he bought a car last year specifically for road trips,” Simmie said.

She arrived Sunday in Durango, and said her husband is on the mend. His condition has improved from a nonresponsive state to focusing his eyes, responding to stimulus and displaying signs of discomfort from broken ribs sustained during CPR.

Angela Reynolds, right, with Simmie Issenberg, whose husband Peter Issenberg collapsed Friday at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. Reynolds and another first responder, Brad Sablosky, saved Peter’s life. (Courtesy of Simmie Issenberg)

The speed of Sablosky’s and Reynold’s response was thanks, in part, to Heart Safe La Plata. The nonprofit helps ensure defibrillators are available in public spaces and is tied into the Interagency Emergency Communications Center. When a cardiac arrest call comes in, an automated message notifies all phones registered with nearby facilities that have the devices. It was this call that notified Reynolds.

Sablosky, a former firefighter with DFPD, runs Wilderness Medic and teaches medical training courses. He said after a week in the classroom, Peter’s cardiac arrest was a teachable moment.

“It's real-world efficacy,” he said. “In the class, we hit on a lot of the ideas that we ended up then being able to demonstrate basically in front of the class.”

Reynolds said her ability to respond based on instinct in that moment was the product of good training. And Simmie is grateful for it.

“She's not named ‘Angela’ for nothing – she is an angel,” Simmie said. “... This woman saved my husband's life.”


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