A 69-year-old cyclist reunited Aug. 31 with the intensive care unit nurse who saved his life after going into cardiac arrest on his drive home.
August 6 started as another normal Sunday for Queen Creek resident Bob Durling, an avid cyclist and Arizona resident, who went on a recovery cycle ride with some friends. What he had not anticipated was that his drive home from that ride could have been his last if it wasn’t for the heroic actions of the off-duty ICU nurse who stopped to help, Courtney Johnson of Gilbert.
Durling recalled traveling home eastbound on Queen Creek Road but doesn’t remember the events that followed.
“I don’t remember stopping the car, but as I was going eastbound all of the sudden my vision — I got dizzy, and I passed out,” Durling said. “That’s when my heart stopped.”
Johnson said “divine intervention” led her to Durling in his time of need.
After leaving her final shift at Chandler Regional Medical Center 30 minutes later than usual, Johnson decided to take Lindsay Road home, something she rarely does. While stopped at the intersection of Lindsay and Queen Creek Road, Johnson noticed a group of bystanders surrounding a vehicle, where she saw Durling slumped against the car window and immediately knew something was wrong.
“I just knew he didn’t have a pulse,” Johnson said. “At that point, all that mattered was he needed to have oxygen throughout his body and his heart needed to be beating in order to have that happen, so I started CPR.”
Johnson delivered three and a half rounds of CPR, and Durling was eventually transferred to the care of emergency medical technicians and transported to Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, where Durling was given a stent and defibrillator.
The two reunited Aug. 31, along with the EMT unit from Gilbert Fire and Rescue that transported Durling to the hospital, to share their stories from that day.
Durling also had a special request for the team that saved his life: their autographs.
Durling brought in the exact cycling jersey he had worn when he suffered the heart attack, which had been jaggedly cut down the middle.
“I’m going to have all the people involved sign it,” Durling said. “And Courtney is the first one who signed it.”
Johnson and Durling were later reunited with the EMT unit involved in Durling’s recovery, and each member took a turn to sign Durling’s jersey.
“I’ve never been asked for an autograph before,” Captain Jose Garcia of Gilbert Fire and Rescue said with a laugh. “To have him come through the door and he’s still himself … you can’t be more thankful.
“A sense tingles up your spine when you see Bob come in here. We saw him a month ago on the worst day of his life, and today we get to see him again.”
Durling and Johnson agree they have made a “forever friend” in each other.
Durling is taking his recovery one step at a time, saying he is already back on his bike every other day. Durling began rehabilitation Sept. 5, but says he is “feeling awesome.”
Leah Phillips is an Arizona State University journalism student. We would like to invite our readers to submit their civil comments, pro or con, on this issue. Email AZOpinions@iniusa.org.