Peewee Roberson and Lindsay Anderson received certificates of commendation for helping save a man's life on May 19 at the Robert H. Ewalt Student Recreation Center.
On the afternoon of May 19, a call went out over staff radios at the Robert H. Ewalt Student Recreation Center: someone had collapsed on the indoor track. Director Peewee Roberson figured it was another case of a student working out on an empty stomach. It quickly became clear that was not the case.
"Peewee, NOW," radioed Lindsay Anderson, assistant director for facilities. Roberson grabbed an automated external defibrillator (AED) and broke into a run.
Together, Anderson and Roberson began resuscitation efforts on 70-year-old Byrnie Bass, an alumnus who was experiencing cardiac arrest. They continued until first responders with Lubbock Fire Rescue Engine 6 arrived on the scene. Tuesday (Aug. 29), their life-saving efforts were recognized by members of the fire department, who presented Anderson and Roberson with certificates of commendation.
"Because of their quick-thinking, training and knowledge, this patient is alive today," said Lubbock Fire Rescue Division Chief Steve Holland. "A lot of it is because of Mr. Roberson and the way he runs this facility, making sure all of his employees know what they need to do and are trained. When a situation like this occurs, they don't panic, they just get to work."
Bass was using one of the cardio machines near the track when he collapsed. He said he remembers driving to the Rec Center to work out like he had almost every morning since the center was built in 1980. After that, the only thing he remembers is saying he didn't feel good. He woke up in the hospital four days later.
"If it weren't for these folks, heck, I wouldn't be here," Bass said. "Pure and simple."
When Bass collapsed, others who were working out with him alerted staff in the FitWell office, who put the call out on the radios. Anderson and a student assistant were the first to arrive on the scene. When she discovered Bass had no pulse and wasn't breathing, Anderson radioed Roberson.
Anderson and Roberson began CPR and connected the AED to Bass. By the time first responders arrived on the scene, they had already administered two shocks from the AED, and Roberson continued chest compressions on Bass until first responders could take over.
After four weeks and a hospital stay that included a quadruple bypass, Roberson said Bass walked back into the Rec Center.
"It was a miracle," Roberson said. "God's hand was on me and Lindsay, and everything worked out. Byrnie's walking around."
Anderson and Roberson were recommended for the awards by responding members of Engine 6. Firefighter Tim Pendleton was surprised to see how well Texas Tech staff members reacted to the emergency, something he said doesn't always happen on calls.
"If they had just stood there and said, " Hey, 911 is on the way,' he might not be here," Pendleton said. "They saved his life. We came up the stairs and I saw Peewee doing CPR, and they've got an AED on him. I thought, this is really impressive. Then I did a little bit of checking up and found out Peewee has everyone CPR-trained and wants them to be proficient in the use of the AED."
Anderson said most of the professional staff and student staff members are trained in CPR and the use of the AED. They receive training on how to respond, from making the first call to 911 to performing resuscitation efforts. Members of the aquatic staff receive even more training to respond to water-related emergencies.
"The importance of that starts with Peewee and his belief in how important it is to be able to respond when something occurs," Anderson said.
Holland said awards like these are not given lightly.
"We believe in giving them out when they're deserved and in this case, they were well-deserved," Holland said. "This was an extraordinary case of a couple of employees jumping into action and taking care of business above and beyond what a lot of ordinary citizens would have been able to do."
Roberson said he and the rest of the staff owe it to the people who use the facility to make sure they can assist anyone at any time, regardless of the circumstance.
"We have 7,000 people who come in every day," Roberson said. "If something goes wrong, we are trained to assist and there's not a staff member who doesn't believe in this."