Senior Instructor Mark Blaine’s emergency wilderness training paid off when student Jamey Racer collapsed during a video shoot in late November.
SOJCJunior Jamey Racer, 41, has managed Aortic Stenosis — a congenital heart condition — throughout his life. But there were no warning signs before he collapsed during a video shoot in late November.
The shoot was just before Thanksgiving break, and SOJC Instructor Mark Blaine was helping Racer and classmate Aaron English with an Allen Hall Productions project. They were near the Erb Memorial Union when Racer collapsed. He was unconscious and had no pulse.
Racer, who has had two open-heart surgeries (one at age 3 and one in his mid-30s), has been revived previously in a hospital setting. “But this particular time was a complete surprise,” he says. “I wouldn’t be alive if Mark Blaine hadn’t done CPR, or if Andrew Johnson hadn’t used the defibrillator.”
Blaine, who has Wilderness First Responder training, had never previously administered CPR in an emergency situation like this one. He asked a student to call 9-1-1, and the 9-1-1 operator instructed him to begin CPR. Another student kept Racer’s airway open. When instructed to do so, EPD Officer Andrew Johnson delivered a shock to the student’s chest with an automatic external defibrillator (AED).
“I took the Wilderness First Responder class because I was doing a lot of things in the backcountry and wanted to be able to respond in a place where there’s not anybody around,” says Blaine. “I never imagined it in this kind of context. Even in an urban setting, [the training] helps.”
Racer regained his heartbeat in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, and spent the following month recovering there. Doctors used therapeutic hypothermia to prevent brain damage. “I was on ice for a couple days,” Racer says, “and they slowly brought me back.”
Racer is married with a 1-year-old son and another child on the way. His wife’s family traveled to Eugene from Tacoma for the Thanksgiving holiday to support her. “When they finally woke me up the day after Thanksgiving, my first words were ‘What the hell happened?’” Although Racer remembers some details from the morning, he says most of that day is “this big blank.”
While in the hospital, Racer had an ICD, or Internal Cardiac Defibrillator, a device that monitors his heart rate and delivers a shock in case of an irregular heart rhythm, implanted. “It’s sort of like carrying the defibrillator around with me,” he says, adding that so far it hasn’t been needed.
About Blaine’s response, Racer says, ““How do you respond or thank somebody who saved your life? … I went through his Gateway class, and we were working on this project together. It’s kind of shocking. I always liked Mark—he’s always been one of the instructors I’ve enjoyed the most. He says he rambles a bit in class, but he’s never said anything that wasn’t interesting. Some people call him an idea guy, and I agree.”
This term, Racer is in Blaine’s Science Writing course, which is a new SOJC course funded by the Pacific Northwest Research Station and a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“The first day of class we were both kind of speechless,” Racer says of his return to school at the beginning of winter term. “I made jokes about being undead.”
Racer, who before beginning at the UO as a journalism student worked as an X-Ray and CT technician in a hospital setting, has administered CPR himself, and says it’s difficult to put his feelings into words. “It’s….even if you don’t know the person, it’s another person, and you’re human, too,” he says.
Just last week, Racer, Blaine, and English resumed the video they had started that fateful day in November, an Allen Hall Studios project for the UO Law School’s Competition not Conflict program. “We were in the same spot where it happened and it was surreal,” he says.
And Racer isn’t the only one grateful to Blaine.
“If it weren’t for Mark, my son wouldn’t have a father. My wife wouldn’t have a husband. That means a lot. It made me realize I’m not in this by myself,” he says. “I emailed him over the break to tell [Blaine] that I’d be back in class, and all I could say was “my wife thanks you… my son thanks you… and I thank you.”