2014 Health Care Heroes: Jim England

Tom Harton
March 6, 2014
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Health Care HeroesFinalist - Volunteer

Jim England, Indianapolis American Heart Association


You might say it was a big greasy cheeseburger—or at least the prospect of one—that helped save Jim England’s life as he left an Ohio State University football game in October 2011.

England and a friend had made a day of it in Columbus, playing golf and tailgating before a night game between the University of Wisconsin and their beloved Buckeyes. When Ohio State scored in the last minute to win the game, most fans stuck around to bask in victory’s glow. But England and his friend made a quick exit, hoping to beat the crowd to a famous Columbus burger joint.

hch_england.jpg Jim England (IBJ Photo/Eric Learned)

They jogged part way across campus to their parking garage, ran up a few flights of stairs, got in the car and took off, with England riding shotgun. England felt fine and was talking to his friend and reading text messages as they approached a mostly deserted intersection that would soon be clogged with people leaving the game.

That’s the last thing he remembers. The next thing he knew it was nine hours later and he was in the hospital hooked to a ventilator.

England, now 63, had suffered a heart attack some call the widow maker. Even though he had recently received a clean bill of health—with a healthy pulse, blood pressure and cholesterol reading—a piece of plaque had detached from the wall of one of the heart’s largest arteries, suddenly causing a 100 percent blockage.

As England and his friend drove to dinner, England stiffened in his seat and became non-responsive; his friend didn’t know what to do. It was a traffic cop without much traffic to direct who called 911 and a bystander who knew CPR who saved England’s life.

The time that elapsed between when England passed out and the bystander started CPR was less than two minutes. The paramedics arrived in five.

“If this would have happened earlier in the day on the golf course, I would have died,” England said. Likewise, he probably wouldn’t have survived if the intersection had been full of cars and the bystander and police officer hadn’t been immediately available. Time is of the essence with attacks such as England’s, an event with a survival rate of about 8 percent.

So the early departure for the burger joint played a role, but England knows it was the bystander who knew CPR who really saved him. And although he has never been able to locate that man, England is doing all he can to make sure as many people as possible know CPR.

He and his wife, Cynthia, have been responsible for more than 130 people being trained in the last few years. They host “CPR parties” in their home, and England, president of J.D. Byrider Advertising Group, has seen to it that employees at Byrider have the opportunity to be trained.

“Jim’s passion is saving lives through education,” said Wendy King, executive director of the American Heart Association in Indianapolis.

Coincidentally, England, who now chairs the heart association’s local board of directors, got involved with the group long before his near-death experience. Byrider began working with the AHA in 2004, and England had chaired the group’s Indianapolis Heart Walk in 2009 and 2010, helping raise more than $1.3 million.

But it’s fair to say his interest level ticked up a bit after that October night in Columbus.

“Thanks to Jim,” King said, “the people he helps train in CPR could save the life of someone you love.”•


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