CPR saves a life and builds life-long connection
It was a beautiful summer day in July. Erika Musante, an emergency medical technician (EMT) with UCHealth, was spending her weekend camping at Green Mountain Reservoir with her husband, Zeth Ramsay, and their three dogs.
That Sunday morning, Erika and Zeth were heading south on Colorado Highway 9 to meet up with family to go fishing when she saw commotion on the side of the road. She felt compelled to help.
“We should turn around and go back,” Erika said to her husband.
When they arrived at the scene, Andrea Horan had just suffered a cardiac arrest and was on the gravel roadside receiving CPR from her husband, John Horan, and a good Samaritan.
They were at least 40 miles from the nearest hospital and 30 miles from the nearest fire station and emergency medical services (EMS).
Erika took command of the scene. She announced she’s medically trained and quickly took over chest compressions.
Zeth, a police officer with Arvada Police Department, directed traffic, giving Erika much needed space on the shoulder of the road.
With several people helping, including an off-duty medic, a nurse and civilians, Erika gave clear and direct instructions on how they could help while she continued chest compressions.
“She was kind but direct. This woman knows what she’s doing,” said John of Erika. “Making it very clear that this is what we need to do to save Andrea’s life.”
Erika offered words of encouragement to John. She ensured they were performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at the right pace, by getting everyone to count out loud.
Officers from the Silverthorne Police Department arrived, and Erika continued to direct others on the correct location for feeling Andrea’s pulse and proper placement of the automated external defibrillator (AED).
For 45 minutes, they maintained their seemingly endless loop of 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths.
Shortly after Summit County EMS arrived, a medical helicopter landed on Highway 9 to fly Andrea out of the canyon to St. Anthony’s, the closest hospital.
John was eager to be with Andrea, but Erika offered her last piece of advice to John: Don’t drive.
Zeth, with advanced driving skills as a police officer, drove John in Andrea’s vehicle 80 miles to the hospital. Erika followed at a distance in their truck.
While in transit, after John made phone calls to family, the two men talked, and formed a strong bond.
Zeth learned that John is one of the founders of the Colorado Fallen Heroes Association, an organization that cares for Colorado families when a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty. John is also a funeral director and directly handled the recent deaths for two of Zeth’s Arvada police department colleagues, Gordon Beesley and Dillon Vakoff.
“It’s hard work when we do it but it’s gratifying when we see the effect that it has on people who are struggling with the most difficult and painful times of their lives,” said John.
“When we found that out it was kind of like full circle that everything happened the way it did. It was meant to be that we were supposed to make this connection,” Erika said.
In hindsight, Erika believes it was Gordon and Dillon tugging on her to turn around when she initially noticed the commotion on the side of the road that Sunday in July.
They are grateful for the roles they have played it each other’s lives. Erika’s role in helping Andrea and John, and John for his role in helping Zeth and Erika and their entire police family with the loss of the officers.
After two weeks in the hospital, Andrea was on the verge of a full recovery.
“I feel great,” Andrea said at the time. “Now I have a defibrillator. So it’s like having Erika with me all the time.”
“Some say this is a miracle,” said John. “I agree, but I also know the miracle in part was Erika’s willingness to stop and assist.”
Approximately 10% of people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and are treated by paramedics survive and leave the hospital after several days.
“You have a lot of heroes in your midst and Erika Musante is among those,” said John.
“Moral of these events is everyone should keep up their CPR certification,” urged Erika. “It’s a miracle the Horans and myself were able to work with such an experienced care team and very kind civilians.”
“Andrea is living proof that applying CPR early and aggressively, not only saves someone’s life but enables that person to live life fully and completely every bit as much as that person would live life without having had a cardiac event,” said John.
Erika credits the commitment and effort by those who stopped to help for Andrea’s successful outcome.
“The big picture was no one ever gave up,” Erika said. “We never knew when help was coming, and we continued [CPR] for the full 45 minutes until EMS arrived.”
John said it was extraordinary that Erika and Zeth gave up their weekend plans to care for Andrea. She and John have four children together.
Erika, Zeth, John and Andrea have built a forever bond following Andrea’s cardiac arrest. To show their gratitude, John and Andrea invited Erika and Zeth to their vacation home at Black Lake for a long weekend. They fished, rode 4-wheelers, watched CU football and enjoyed each other’s company.
Erika has worked for UCHealth for almost 7 years. Her goal is to be as prepared as possible for any situation. That July morning, she felt confident in her ability to perform chest compressions and breaths for 45 minutes until EMS arrived.
“Thank heavens there are people like Erika and Zeth who see something, even on their day off, they see someone who needs help and they stop. And they help,” John said.