CARES Annual Report 2018 | 9 Ridge’s strength and optimism are undeniable, and so too is his love of family. “Well this is a personal story. I love this because it involves people I love dearly,” his voice smiles. “I remember when I finally became conscious, I thought I was dreaming and saw my sister in my dreams. Later I saw my son. I’m thinking… what are they doing here?” Ridge’s sister was the first family member he remembers speaking with. “She sat next to me and gave me a kiss,” he recalls, citing how comforting that was. “I have no better friends than my brother and sister.” Ridge admits it took him a day or two to figure out what happened. But his sense of humor was never lost: “The doctor told me I said, ‘Well, I’m glad Saint Peter was a fisherman who believed in catch and release.’” Ridge has responded to his brush with death with grace and steady resolve. He sums up his gratitude this way: “First you’re given the blessing of surviving that arrest. And, the second blessing is that there’s no cognitive impairment, and you can understand and appreciate what happened and the severity of it all. You can also in time appreciate the fact that it will be difficult, but because there's no cognitive limit, you're given the opportunity, in time, to work yourself back. And that's another blessing.” ‘It's a killer or a disabler.’ Ridge is one of the lucky ones. More than 1,000 people a day suffer OHCA in the US annually, and less than less than 1 in 10 survives, according to data from the Institute of Medicine. However, cities like Austin who measure for improvement have higher save rates. Austin has been using CARES to improve its response to OHCA since 2006. Dr. Mark Escott, EMS System Medical Director, City of Austin-Travis County points out, “The availability of the CARES data allows for us to continuously assess the strengths and weaknesses of our entire chain of survival for cardiac arrest in the City of Austin. Several years ago, through analysis of our data, we were able to identify a concern in our resuscitation system… modifications were made resulting in a significant improvement in the survival from cardiac arrest in Austin.” Ridge agrees. “The story is that there's a high rate of cardiac arrest and cardiac conditions,” he says. “It's a killer or a disabler.” He stresses the importance of CARES across all 50 states to reduce the tragic impact OHCA has on communities, citing the return on investment is worth it: “$15,000 a year out of your public health budget involving a killer? More people die in every state because of that condition [OHCA], than from autos, guns and drugs. So why wouldn't we want to do it? I mean, I think it's a very appropriate ask. And, in the era of big data, it helps you refine procedures, improve response and response time and save lives.” In addition to CARES, Ridge recognizes the importance of community awareness, CPR training and access to AEDs. Ridge says he is “fascinated” by the dispatch-assisted CPR movement, “Put it on speakerphone and follow me!” ‘I’m just grateful to have another day’ Reflecting on his own survival Ridge concludes, “When we think about EMS, it is a chain of people connected to the response and recovery operation that is very significant. And unless they work in harmony and flawlessly, you don't have the outcomes…” Ridge got that flawless harmony in Austin. Dr. Escott agrees, “Through the strengthened links in the chain of survival, Gov. Ridge survived and continues to serve and lead.” “I’ve had a blessed life,” Ridge says. “I’m just grateful to have another day and to do the best I can with that day. I think that was on my mind before, but it’s much deeper now, that’s for sure.” Gov. Ridge thanks responders from Austin Fire Department and Austin-Travis County EMS for saving his life from cardiac arrest. Photo courtesy of NAEMSP.