Heart attack victim thanks Cedar Rapids first responders - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Heart attack victim thanks Cedar Rapids first responders

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A large group gathered Tuesday afternoon as Dan Clarahan thanked them for the part they played in saving his life after suffering from a heart attack while driving in December.

"My life has been saved. I've got a new life now," Clarahan told them.

For some, this was the first time Clarahan met them. He has no memory of the actual incident.

On December 3, 2016, Clarahan was driving on Highway 30 in Cedar Rapids, when he had a heart attack. His car crashed into the guardrail before crossing the median going into oncoming traffic.

Clarahan is from Wisconsin and was only in town because he had just attended a funeral and was about to head back home. The funeral was for his cousin's husband, who had died from a heart attack.

His first bit of luck was not being injured or hit in the crash. The second came when Chase Bennett and Jonathan Collanan pulled over to help him, dragging him out of the car and before starting to perform CPR.

Sara Jansen, of Cedar Falls, was also in town for the weekend celebrating her birthday, with her niece, a few months late. She says it was a chance encounter that she came across the accident.

"Going on HWY 30, realizing I did not go the right way. So, I had to turn around and go back west towards Cedar Rapids," Jansen said.

That's when her niece saw what was unfolding on the side of the road.

"I looked over and saw the guy standing there and the other on his knees doing CPR in a ditch," she said.

Jansen then pulled over and also helped doing CPR on Clarahan. 

"Essentially, I died and they saved me. So, in a lot of ways I was gone and unfortunately, there was no bright white shining light," 

He says without them, he wouldn't be here today. Responding paramedics agree.

"It is actually the number one thing that saved his life," Louis Martinez, Area Ambulance Advanced EMT and one of the first responders said.

The order of events is what first responders like to call, "the chain of survival." First set in motion by the bystanders that pulled over to help.

Police officers were the next to arrive on the scene. They continued CPR and shocked Clarahan once with a defibrillator. 

Next was firefighters and Area Ambulance Service, who continued advanced life support. 

Clarahan was transported to the emergency room at Mercy Medical Center, where he received all of his care. Just a little over a week, Clarahan was discharged. Today, he's the perfect image of health.

For Martinez, meeting Clarahan again was a surreal moment.

"I've had a few saves before but I've never met one. To see him, from what we saw that day, to now, It's actually, I've never felt such a rewarding thing. He looks healthy. He looks great," Martinez said.

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