Family's message: Make sure you know CPR

September 11, 2019 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

The Tanck family of Naperville is on a mission. The goal: train as many people as possible to be able to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Rudi Tanck, 63, knows the value of CPR because family members used it to save his life when he suffered a heart attack and went into full cardiac arrest during Memorial Day weekend in 2019.

Rudi and wife Joan, 60, were visiting their son, Brian Tanck; daughter-in-law, Micaiah and granddaughter, Sofia, in Scottsboro, Alabama, where Brian and Micaiah are co-pastors of Scottsboro Presbyterian Church.

That Saturday, May 25, the family ran some errands and came back to the house to have lunch.

“My son was grilling on the back deck and I was working on fixing a chair,” recalls Rudi. “I turned to walk in the house and just collapsed.”

Joan and Micaiah heard the noise of Rudi hitting the floor, but didn’t know what happened. When Joan first saw Rudi, she thought he might have fallen because he has a bad hip, but quickly realized it was more than that. She thought he had the appearance of having a stroke. When they called 911, the operator told them to begin CPR.

Joan, who took a CPR class when she was a Girl Scout leader, started. She didn’t feel her compressions were effective enough and told her son they needed to switch. Joan noticed an immediate difference once Brian took over. She could hear air coming out of her husband’s mouth.

Brian, who had recently taken a CPR class at his church, continued CPR for about 8-10 minutes, the time it took for the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to arrive, which, of course, was good news.

The bad news? They were 40 miles from the nearest hospital with the technology and expertise to handle Rudi’s situation. A helicopter was not available, so the EMTs made the normally 45-50 minute trip to Huntsville Hospital in 30 minutes.

Doctors there inserted a stent to open a blocked coronary artery. Rudi left the hospital about a week later, with no lingering side effects from the heart attack.

“There are two miracles,” says Rudi. “One is that I’m alive and the other is that when I came to it was like a light switch flipped and I had all my memory, I had all my dexterity. I haven’t had to rehabilitate myself to swallow or walk or anything like that, which in my mind is probably as big a miracle when you think about the period of time from the event until I was in the hospital.”

Afterward, the Tanck family took it upon themselves to spread the word about the importance of CPR training.

“If we stood there (and did nothing), we wouldn’t have had this outcome,” says Joan.

That led to Joan coordinating a series of Edward-Elmhurst Health’s “Family and Friends” CPR classes at Knox Presbyterian Church in Naperville. When completed, more than 120 people were trained.

“You don’t know who or when the opportunity might come, but the odds are pretty good that it could be a family or friend that you have the opportunity to save,” says Rudi. “That puts it into a little different perspective. That makes it very personal.”

Learn more about Edward-Elmhurst Health’s CPR and First Aid training classes.

Learn about our high-quality heart care.

Learn more from Healthy Driven Chicago:

Five ways to prevent a heart attack

Heart attack symptoms women can't ignore

Five cardiac risk factors you need to know

Helping men prevent heart disease

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