Heroes in training

•Card from Mark reverse

Card from Mark, 6th grade, Honowai Elementary School, Oahu

We think that Mark, who drew this card that Dick received this week, has a future as a cartoonist. A packet of 20 handwritten, hand-drawn thank you notes from Oahu arrived at Dick’s, Cora’s and Connie’s houses, each unique card made by a sixth grader at Honowai Elementary School in Waipahu. (You may recall that Cora and Connie traveled from their respective homes in Nevada and Colorado to care for Dick after I had to leave Honolulu to return home. They all stayed another two weeks in a house we rented in Pearl City.)

Apparently about 60 keiki (children) were recently trained in CPR and the use of an AED, thanks to donations from Dick, Cora and Connie to CPR4Kids, the nonprofit part of the AED Institute. This is just one of many trainings volunteers with CPR4Kids do all over Hawaii,

Dick, Cora and Connie knew that their donations would be used to train kids in these lifesaving techniques, but they didn’t know they’d be so richly thanked.

•Card from Gregory

We liked this card from Kenneth, too:

•Card from Kenneth inside

Diana Sellner, program coordinator of CPR4Kids, also sent a note:

“As you know, CPR training for kiddos is so important. The kiddos really enjoy CPR training and soak up the info like sponges. Here are some thank you cards written by students at Honowai Elementary School. This was Honowai’s first time receiving training. They had so much fun that they immediately scheduled for 2020.”

According to a letter that also came from Morgan Hawley, relations manager for Kids 4 CPR, Inc., “Each year in the U.S., nearly 350,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside hospitals, and less than 30% will receive CPR from a bystander. Without immediate bystander CPR and defibrillation, a victim’s chance of survival decreases 10% for each minute that passes. The national survival rate from cardiac arrest is less than 10% and potentially even less in Hawaii.”

•Card from Anyiss

This is the essence of what the kids learned: that CPR stands for call (911), push (do chest compressions) and respond (EMS personnel come to help). Kids4CPR’s mission is to improve the cardiac arrest survival rate in Hawaii, Hawley said. By teaching lifesaving CPR and AED use in schools, they hope “to help turn the sudden cardiac arrest (death) statistics upside down.”

The idea is that after training them, like the Honowai keiki in sixth grade, their skills “will be reinforced as they progress through school,” Hawley wrote. “By the time they graduate, we hope to have created a generation of CPR/AED-savvy students who have the confidence and willingness to save a life. Future heroes in training!”

Here’s more that we learned from their website:

• Kids4 CPR is a 100% volunteer-run organization. “Teaching children to save a life and be a superhero is what we do best.”

• “A key component of our program is encouraging and inspiring students to go out and teach family and friends, exponentially increasing the number of potential lifesavers in the community. Everyone benefits from children receiving CPR training because of their willingness to share what they learned with others.”

•Card from Nichelle

We were very touched by Brehannan’s letter, which arrived in the package sent to Connie.

“I would like to thank you for teaching me CPR cause when I was little people would ask me what was my dream and I would say help people and save people and you helped me learn what CPR means and what to do when they collapsed or at least something happens and what to be and say. Now that you taught me I can accomplish my younger self dreams so thank you.”

 

•Card from Mark front

Another keeper from Mark (note the Zooming superhero with AED in hand).

We can’t guarantee great cards like this if you or someone you know donates to Kids4CPR, but if you do, and if you get gratitude in this form from a bunch of eager sixth graders, tell us about it. It seems like a great gift to us. You can make a tax-deductible donation to Kids4CPR and even mention Dick Schmidt, if you like.

He’s kind of a superhero now, too.

www.kids4cpr.org

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Claudio and Camron

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Dick Schmidt and Claudio Alvarado

When the four of us met in person for the first time just inside the restaurant door last night, we hugged as if we’d known each other forever. Bystanders might have thought we were family—the older, gray-haired couple meeting the young men, one 26, one 32, we learned.

Actually, it wasn’t the first time we four had met. But on January 15, Dick had collapsed at the airport in Honolulu, and these two strangers materialized—Claudio Alvarado, the UC Davis Medical Center nurse, to kneel by Dick, and his partner Camron Calloway, who stood with me and put his arms around me.

Claudio, it turned out, was the monitor, the one who checked Dick’s pulse after he fell, noticed it fluttering and that he was still breathing. But by the time he rolled Dick onto his back, both pulse and heartbeat had stopped. By then, another stranger was kneeling on the other side of Dick—Salesi Maumau, an off-duty Honolulu firefighter—and somehow, with few words spoken, Salesi and Claudio became an instant lifesaving team as Salesi began CPR on Dick.

At the same time the Hawaiian Airlines folks at the desk sprang into action: Heather Tanonaka called 911. Chris Ohta ran for one of the portable defibrillators, an AED, which are placed 90 seconds apart at the Daniel K. Inouye Airport.

But it was Claudio and Salesi who knelt on the ground with Dick, and Camron who comforted me, when Chris arrived with the AED.

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“Salesi and I put the pads on your chest,” Claudio told Dick last night after we settled into a comfy booth at Roxy. “But Chris was so eager to push the button after the AED said to administer the shock that he forgot to call ‘clear.’ I still had my hands on Dick’s head, holding his neck straight.”

Dick and I were startled. “You didn’t…?” I said, holding my breath.

“No,” Claudio said. “I pulled my hands away just in time.”

Because—if you haven’t been reading all my blog posts—AEDs stop hearts, giving them a chance to restart. The thought of Claudio’s heart stopping in those crucial minutes nearly stopped mine.

“I was fine,” he emphasized, taking in our faces.

Well, Claudio had to be fine since he remained upright and checking Dick’s pulse throughout the approximately three minutes he was—to be frank—dead on the ground.

We sat there, looking at these two young men who had been a couple for all of a month before this event that changed all our lives. Both of them are military men—Claudio, a Navy nurse before he was discharged (though he’s still in the Naval reserve) and now works in pediatric emergency at UC Davis, and Camron, a courier for the Air Force, flying all over the world managing documents and cargo.

They’d had a long-distance relationship and got really good at FaceTime before they finally got to spend actual time together—Claudio living in Sacramento and Camron now living in Vacaville assigned to Travis Air Force Base. And the trip they’d just finished on Oahu was Camron’s chance to show Claudio an island Camron has come to love and explored extensively in the recent years.

And after Dick came back to life with one shock of the AED, after the emergency personnel arrived to take over and get Dick and me to the hospital, Claudio and Camron and Salesi got on Hawaiian Airlines flight 20 back to Sacramento. We didn’t know this until the next day when Pam Foster, from the AED Institute in Hawaii, came to see us in the hospital and tell us the story. That’s when we learned that AEDs had been used in airports in Hawaii 69 times with 50 survivors. Dick is number 50. Pam also had Claudio and Camron’s names, and she was on the trail of finding Salesi.

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Camron Calloway introduces us to Claudio via Facetime in the hospital in Honolulu, Jan. 27, three days after Dick’s triple bypass.

Before he and Claudio raced to get on the plane, Camron and I thought to trade contact information. And three days after Dick’s triple bypass, Pam Foster contacted me to say that Camron, who was once again on Oahu, wanted to visit. He arrived at the hospital in his light-colored camo fatigues and made a FaceTime call to Claudio so all four of us could meet right there in Dick’s room. It was all we could do not to weep with gratitude.

A couple of weeks ago we got to meet Salesi and his wife Eryn for dinner in Sacramento. And last night we finally got to feed the guys and learn more about them, hear their version of our story (because it truly is our little village’s story). The fact that Dick was brought back to life by the quick action of a team of young people who didn’t know each other but who knew what to do still amazes us—all of them with ties to both Sacramento and Hawaii (like us), all of them under the age of 35 (not like us).

If ever you doubt the willingness to help strangers, the strength and resilience, the competence and compassion of people significantly younger than you, I want to introduce you to these people: Salesi, Chris, Camron and Claudio.

Claudio last night delivered his good news: He’s just gotten a full-time job as a nursing professor at Sacramento City College. He starts teaching in August after spending his summer doing clinical work with SCC nursing students at UCDMC.

I knew Claudio had applied for this job, and I wrote a spontaneous letter singing his praises to the two directors of my college’s nursing program. The letter couldn’t be used in the formal interview process (it was too late for that), but the two women who received it knew about Claudio’s actions that helped save Dick.

So this weekend, as Christians celebrate a great resurrection, as Jews commemorate Passover, Dick and I will go to his family’s little Methodist church on J Street and give our thanks for his passing over and for his resurrection, too. In Dick’s case, he gets to continue to walk the earth for a while longer. We hope it’s a good while longer.

And I plan to write another letter, this time to the president and one of the vice presidents of my college, telling them what a brilliant hire they’ve just made in Claudio Alvarado, one of our heroes, part of our ohana, whom we can’t wait to take to dinner again and again.

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Claudio, Dick and Camron

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Good fortunes

e-RDS JLH by SML 4-5-19

Jan and Dick, April 15, 2019, three months after (photo by Sue Lester)

(with thanks to Claudio and Salesi)

You will be reborn. Literally.

In line, about to board a plane, you will die in an airport.

You will feel very dizzy and then feel nothing as you pitch forward into oblivion.

Your sweetheart will sink to her knees next to you, beg you to come back.

Two strangers will materialize, also kneel at your side.

One will whisper to your sweetheart, “I’m a nurse.”

The nurse will touch your neck, feel for a pulse, roll you on your back.

The other stranger, an off-duty firefighter, will start compressing your chest, 110 beats per minute—stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.

Someone will call 911. Someone will run for the machine.

Someone will cut open your T-shirt that says Life is Good across it and slash your favorite photo vest off you.

The one who has run will return, a bit winded, with the machine, will open its red case, listen as it starts talking.

Someone will attach two large pads to your chest moored to the machine by white wires.

The machine will say, “Stay away from the patient.”

The machine will say, “Deliver shock.”

Someone will push the button.

The machine will deliver a massive shock into your chest.

You will not convulse like they do on TV.

Your eyes will open almost immediately.

The machine will say, “Regular sinus rhythm detected,” and will not shock you again.

You will wonder why you are looking into the eyes of people you don’t know.

You will blink at the world you’ve returned to, as surprised as your saviors who know that such resurrections are rare.

Lying on the floor, you will begin to form a new definition of gratitude as the two who saved your life pat you on the shoulder, then run down the jetway, preparing for takeoff as you’ve just come in for a landing.

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On the treadmill

So many of us feel this way, slogging off to work every day, dragging ourselves back home, living for the weekends. “Back on the old treadmill,” some of us say.

Well, today, Dick got back on the old treadmill—literally—and in seven minutes was pooped out. But that was the idea since the treadmill is a test administered by the heart folks at Kaiser in Sacramento. And though we don’t know the results of the test yet, or the EKG he had before the treadmill test, we do know that Dick’s blood pressure remained good before and after—and that he felt strong and confident as he walked, even if it seemed as if he was hiking uphill part of the time.

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He’s also gone to three sessions with dietitians at Kaiser, including two classes that were advocating plant-based diets. We’ve been practicing mostly fish- and plant-based diets these days—with occasional forays into beef… including Dick’s only burger indulgence: the lean, mean buffalo burger. This, for a guy who in his prime as a newspaper photographer was a two-cheeseburger-a-day guy, is a pretty big deal, we think.

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Having the EKG (look at that incision healing nicely!)

And he’s been good about avoiding most refined sugar. It also helps that he’s eating less than he used to, which has him down to a little less than 180 pounds now.

Dick is taking walks every day for a good 45 minutes at a pretty good clip—many of them without me now, though I love to join him when I can because walking Woodside is like walking in a park. (Local Sacramento folks, you are welcome to come walk with Dick and check out the newly refurbished duck pond in his ‘hood!)

In other words, he’s doing great!

Dick also wants me to include this photo:

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Dick is the cook in our group. He’s great at baking fish and steaming veggies. But all this heart-healthy stuff has inspired me to get back into wok mode of chicken stir-fry in olive oil, which is a good way for both of us to eat our vegetables over a little brown rice. I find that if I make up a batch, that’s good for dinner for us both, plus leftovers for Dick the next day. Dick likes this photo because it’s not my usual spot in the house. I’d still rather sit on the sofa and work on a poem than cook, but I have to say that once all the veggies and chicken are cut up, the stir fry sure goes quickly. And, if I do say so myself, it’s pretty tasty, too.

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And, in some of the best news of all, Dick’s been off the big league painkillers for two months now. He’s had comparatively little pain throughout this whole ordeal, and when we found the perfect sign as we walked Woodside one day—well, it just called for a photo.

On tax day, April 15, it will be the three-month-a-versary of Dick’s cardiac arrest. If there are only two sure things in life—death and taxes—Dick has experienced both this year… and, come to think of it, he did get a bit of a refund on both, the lucky duck. We will take a moment on the 15th and be grateful, once again, for his miraculous resurrection.

 

 

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Dick’s Great Heart adventure

heart blossom

These are all the posts I’ve made after my partner Dick Schmidt’s cardiac arrest at the airport in Honolulu Jan. 15, 2019. If you like, you can start with the first entry and read through them chronologically.

Be still, my heart

Glad to be here

Ohana

Baba yetu

Heart of my heart

The gift of time

A visit from two angels

Life Is Good

Doggie kisses

E komo mai

Stayin’ alive

Tres amigas

Another ‘anela

To beard or not to beard…

Mulling it over

His sweet baby face

Pampered

All systems are go

Hauoli la hanau

Love, ascending

He’s baaaack!

Cora and Connie

Walkin’ man

Walk a mile in his shoes… or two

Pesketti

Bonus time

Split pea

Two months new

Spring springing

The Maumaus

On the treadmill

Good fortunes

 

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How I’m truly starting to believe in my own reincarnation, and maybe you are, too

for Dickie

Because I said to you today, without hesitation,
watching big wave surfers from our lanai high
over Hanalei Bay, In my next life, I’m gonna surf,

which reminded me that, having completed
six decades on the planet, there are some things
I still want to do but am not brave enough to attempt,

and that I have begun to also say, not at my age,
which says I’m beginning to think like an old person
instead of a merely cautious one, which I’ve been

mostly in this lifetime. And that stopped me.
Because at 60 I don’t want to think like an old person—
you don’t, and you’re 75, though you are cautious, too,

but willing to experience new things, maybe thinking
about your own next act. This morning, eating breakfast
on the lanai, watching the surfers, you said, In your next life,

 you and your sister can be out there in your bikinis,
and I said, Sure, but where will you be? And then I
answered my own question: You’ll be the lifeguard

 on the beach—and you liked that—the one
looking out, watching over me, just as you’ve
done in this lucky, lovely lifetime of ours.

 

jan haag 1/11/19
(four days before Dick’s cardiac arrest and resurrection at the Honolulu Airport)

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The Maumaus

 

life savers Salesi Maumau

Finally we both got to thank two of our newest ohana in person for their generous hearts and for literally bringing Dick back to life in January. Honolulu firefighter Salesi Maumau and his wife Eryn, both native Northern Californians, came to visit in Sacramento this past week, and we—lucky people that we are—got to sit with them over dinner and talk story, as they say in Hawaii.

They called us ohana, too, which brought tears to our eyes, that lovely Hawaiian word that means “family,” because Dick got to meet Salesi and Eryn at the Celebration of Life at the Honolulu Airport Feb. 15 (you can read about that here) and embrace them as loved ones for the first time. Aren’t they marvelous? Not only beautiful looking people, but lovely humans on the inside, too.

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Eryn, Dick and Salesi at El Novillero in Sacramento… yes, Mexican food, one of the things the Maumaus miss about Sacramento!

We learned more about Salesi and Eryn over dinner:

• That they met at Sac State as business administration students. Eryn grew up with her family in Yuba City, and Salesi (who has Hawaiian roots) grew up with his family in Elk Grove.

• That they’re both college athletes: Salesi playing football, first at Franklin High School in Elk Grove, then at Sac City (go, Panthers!) and at Sac State (go, Hornets!). Eryn played volleyball at Sac State.

• Both of them were named to the Big Sky Conference’s all-academic team in college, Eryn named twice for volleyball, and Salesi and his brother Maika named for football.

• Not unlike Dick and his wife Mary Lou, who married in 1971 and then promptly moved to Oahu so Dick could work at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper, Salesi and Eryn also moved to Oahu after becoming engaged and married in Sacramento in September 2017.

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Salesi Maumau at the Celebration of Life Feb. 15, 2019, in Honolulu

Salesi is a proud Honolulu firefighter who told us that while he had done CPR on people on the job before, he had never done so in public when he wasn’t working. Dick’s cardiac arrest was the first time Salesi jumped into action as a bystander. He was in line behind us (as was UC Davis Medical Center nurse Claudio Alvarado and his partner, Camron Calloway, who comforted me) at midday Jan. 15 when Dick pitched forward “like a domino,” Salesi told us later. Both Salesi and Claudio should have already boarded the plane before us, but to our great luck, they were on the spot when we needed them.

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At the Celebration of Life in Honolulu Feb. 15: (from left) Eryn Maumau, Salesi Maumau, caretakers Connie Raub and Cora Johnson surrounding Dick, and Pam Foster of the AED Institute.

The day Dick and our friends Cora and Connie (who cared for Dick for two weeks in Honolulu after I had to return home) flew back to Sacramento, they were greeted at the airport with an impressive Celebration of Life. Pam Foster of the AED Institute had arranged a major celebration with speeches by Salesi and others. That day Salesi, looking official in his uniform and lei, told the group, “All I did was compressions.”

Pam Foster said, gesturing toward Salesi, “That’s what it’s all about.” Because without Salesi, without Claudio’s care, without Chris Ohta of Hawaiian Airlines running for the AED that shocked him back to life, there would be no Dick Schmidt.

Here’s the story from Dick’s former newspaper, now called the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. (If you click on the highlighted link, you can also see the newspaper’s video about the Celebration of Life.)

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We brought a couple of small gifts to Salesi and Eryn at dinner. When Dick presented Salesi with an autographed roll of Lifesavers, Dick said, “Your photo should be on here.” And it should. There should be a special award, as well as a special place in heaven, for people who come out of their regular lives to help in such a meaningful way. We were delighted to connect in our town with Eryn and Salesi and to call them ohana… and we will happily meet them for dinner every time they come to town now. Our treat!

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Salesi, Dick, Jan and Eryn—ohana

 

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Spring springing

blossoms

Blossoms everywhere all of a sudden, even as the on-again, off-again rains continue in our neck of the woods. And hearts leap out at us, too, on our daily walks around Woodside as Dick’s keeps on tickin’, stronger than it’s been in years.

heart blossom

We continue to walk around in wonder, hoping that this sense of awe lasts a while, looking at the world through eyes refreshed by the “almost”s. We are aware of the difficulties that so many around us are facing, and I do a lovingkindness meditation each morning, thinking of those people who are suffering, who are struggling. Dick has always been good about keeping a positive outlook, and watching him walk each day, gaining strength and confidence, does my old heart good, too.

On Wednesday he did three walks, driving himself (!) to Costco, hiking the parking lot to the store, and then moving through it to get what he needed (toilet paper for us, among other things… lots of TP!). Then he walked from his condo to the bank on the corner, and THEN he walked Woodside with me late in the day. He’s not a mileage kinda guy, so he has no idea how much territory he covered, but I’m pretty sure it was well over 2.5 miles all together.

Thank you all for your continued love and support, which we feel coming to us through the ether. May we all continue to hold each other in a tender, kind place as we walk in the world, as spring (or fall, depending on your hemisphere) arrives.

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Dickie and the early spring blossoms

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Flying saucer

 

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Did I tell you that I had a poem recently published in an online magazine called riverbabble? You can read it here:

http://www.iceflow.com/riverbabble/issue34/P-34-HAAG.HTML?fbclid=IwAR1bJcyde0RCSkk5-fDp9o_zotkvvhLZwsqasawlQBt0SK6BJFDQYLTt5jc

Or you can read it here:

Flying Saucer

That’s what he looked like in the murk of morning
filtering through saltwater—

and instantly I accorded the behemoth male status
because of size, because of weight made weightless—
because I, too, floated weightless near that ancient being
flippering so casually, parallel to the island,
as if he had no place he had to be, and neither did I
for a change,

two of us—one honu, one human—one of us truly alien
in this environment, the other not seeming to mind
an artificially flippered one tagging along,
interrupting his morning nibbles of tender limu
on volcanic remnants, each holding our breaths,
lifting our heads to the surface to snag some air
now and again, one of us marveling at the other
making his saucer-shaped way through his universe—

until I knew that to follow him would be at my peril,
for I was the malihini here, the stranger,

so I floated and watched his carapace
disappear into the sea where I hoped
he would, with luck, live his long turtle life,
and I, poor landlubber, would return to mine.

—Jan Haag

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Honu, Kona Village, the Big Island, Hawaii (Photo by Dick Schmidt)

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Two months new

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Dick walks Woodside, Sacramento, California

Two months ago today this man had a cardiac arrest in Honolulu. His heart stopped beating, and he stopped breathing. About three minutes later, thanks to the quick action of an off-duty nurse and firefighter, as well as a Hawaiian Airlines employee, he was shocked back to life with an airport defibrillator.

A month later, after a triple bypass and excellent after care by a couple of longtime friends, he flew home to Sacramento. Today he walked a little over a mile, as he has been doing pretty much daily since he returned home. I am so proud of Dick Schmidt, so pleased he is still with us, lending his kind self to the planet. He looks forward to being able to drive soon and get back to his recharged, far from ordinary, two-months-new life.

Tonight we had a phone chat with Claudio Alvarado, the UCD Medical Center nurse who helped bring Dick back to life. We noted the two-month-a-versary and thanked him once again, marveling at the circumstances that brought him and Honolulu firefighter Salesi Maumau (who grew up in Elk Grove and performed CPR on Dick) to be near us in line to board Hawaiian Airlines flight 20. We are eager to take them to dinner and celebrate our new friends who literally extended Dick’s life.

Because, as Dick’s shirt says, life is good!

RDS Woodside redwood

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