WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – Hal Lunka should not be alive. Two weeks ago, he suffered a massive heart attack. What followed was a quadruple bypass and 10 days in intensive care.
“On April 23, I tried to die, but somebody was there to save me,” he said.
Lunka volunteers as an instructor for Junior Achievement. He was on his way to teach a workshop at Westminster’s Colorado STEM Academy when, without warning, he suffered a massive heart attack.
“All of a sudden he leaned back in his chair and his head went back,” said Stephanie Marantino, a third grade teacher.
It was early, the students had yet to arrive and Marantino was introducing herself to Lunka. She says, he was complaining of back pain, but nothing indicated he was going into cardiac arrest. The second Lunka’s demeanor changed, she called 911.
“It was amazing. Seeing everybody that was working as a team and the calm that came over the room,” said Les Flaming, a CLD teacher with the academy.
Marantino stayed on the phone with dispatch instructing Flaming on chest compression. The school’s administrator, Nikki Shaw, was standing by.
“I asked him if he wanted me to relieve him, and I did,” said Shaw.
Shaw goes through CPR training every two years as a requirement of her position. She never thought she would need to use it, especially on a man twice her size, but says when the time came it was second nature.
The staff did everything they were supposed to do. The compressions even broke his ribs, which health experts say happens frequently because compressions have to be strong and deep.
At the time, they weren’t sure if Lunka would make it and despite being strangers, they stayed with him until paramedics loaded him into an ambulance.
“All three of us were just standing there watching. We didn’t leave, you know, we wanted to be there with him,” said Marantino. “I had a short cry, walked around the track with Les and then the kids came.”
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The staff are proud of their work, but do not consider themselves heroes. Lunka does.
From his perspective, they not only saved his life, but they have given him a new outlook. He has six grandchildren, five children and a lot of students relying him.
“We all take life for granted and chase stuff, and I’ve always believed that stuff don’t matter. It’s the relationships you built, and the lives you touch,” Lunka said as he choked back tears. “I’m going to go on a new path — what it is, I don’t know, but there’s more ahead for me.”
In addition to cherishing the people around you, Lunka and Colorado STEM staff agree, taking the time to refresh your CPR skills is a must.