The last thing Richard Nevarez remembers before going into cardiac arrest is heading to the cafeteria during his lunch break at Methodist Hospital, ordering some food and walking toward the cashier.
The 58-year-old Omaha man doesn’t remember falling to the floor and seizing, his heart in ventricular fibrillation and racing at more than 200 beats per minute. And he doesn’t remember the life-saving measures performed by a bystander.
Tyrone Carter, a 48-year-old plant operations mechanic at Methodist, did not hesitate that mid-July night. He heard the thud as Nevarez hit the floor and ran to place unused mop heads under his head. Carter then flipped Nevarez on his back and began CPR until the hospital’s medical emergency team arrived.
Carter continued his shift, waiting anxiously to hear if Nevarez would pull through.
“I was ecstatic when they told me he’d made it,” Carter said Wednesday when the two men met for the first time since Nevarez’s cardiac arrest.
Nevarez said his cardiac surgeon was “amazed the outcome was as good as it was, just because of all the things that could have happened.”
Carter credited EMT training he received more than a decade ago for his ability to quickly and professionally jump into action. Both men said a stroke of serendipity played a role.
“I actually packed my lunch for that night and I forgot it at home,” Carter said. “I wouldn’t have gone to the cafeteria if I had remembered my lunch. It was definitely aligned in the stars.”
Carter also typically works a day shift at the hospital and had just recently been moved to a night shift rotation.
The story of what happened that night came in pieces over the first weeks of Nevarez’s recovery. The father of two had been working as a COVID screener, someone who checks hospital visitors and incoming patients for signs of COVID-19, at Methodist for several months and had no history of health problems. He’d felt fine that day.
“I really had no idea what happened,” Nevarez said. “I woke up with a tube down my throat and my arms tied to the rails so I couldn’t take it out. I couldn’t talk, all I could do was listen to people, and it was very difficult to communicate. It was very frustrating.”
He spent a week in the hospital, and after several doctor visits, he was set up with an internal defibrillator to prevent future cardiac arrest.
On Wednesday, as he stood with Carter in the Methodist Hospital Reflection Garden, Nevarez said he felt good.
“If I had been anywhere else, we wouldn’t be speaking here today,” Nevarez said. “If I’d have been anywhere other than the hospital I’d be dead.”
Carter stressed the importance of basic medical training.
“Preparation is key,” he said. “I feel that I was prepared for this moment and went into action when I saw a fellow being in need of help and I put that teaching into action. We have a wonderful outcome now.”