Chance circumstances save life

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Local women recognized for their heroic efforts 

By Nancy Edwards

Two local residents have been recognized for their quick-thinking actions in helping to save the life of a man who nearly drowned in November.

Amber Ross and Melissa Philhower received Good Samaritan awards given by the Fishers Fire & Emergency Services in a recognition ceremony spearheaded by the Fishers Police Dept. Jan. 21 at Fishers Town Hall for rescuing Ron Perry, 56, an Anderson man who suffered a heart attack and nearly drowned in a pond near 126th Street and Hawks Landing Drive in Fishers.

The circumstances connecting the three individuals on the morning of Nov. 12 are more than purely coincidental. Ross, an accountant, was on her way to work, yet she was running late, which, according to her, “never happens.”

She noticed a car on 126th Street veering off the road. At first, she assumed that the driver was a teenager carelessly texting while driving and kept an eye on the car, which suddenly swerved across four lines and broke through a fence.

Meanwhile, Philhower, driving to school early for a meeting, was traveling eastbound on 126th Street to Fall Creek Elementary School, where she is a second-grade teacher. She saw a car driving erratically bump onto a curb; after glancing into her rearview mirror, she observed the car sliding into a retention pond.

Ross and Philhower stopped their cars just east of Hawk’s Landing Drive and immediately sprinted to Perry’s car, which was sinking into the nearly frozen pond. Philhower called 911 and Ross jumped into the water, frantically attempting to unlock the car doors, which were locked.

Two anonymous men in separate work trucks drove to the scene just as Ross was wondering how to break the windows to rescue Perry. One of them had a hammer and they began breaking the glass until Perry was free. Ross and one of the other men dragged Perry’s body to the bank of the pond.

Ross, who was a medic in the army national guard and attended premed classes, knew exactly what do next.

“The first thing I did was check (Perry’s) airwaves and pulse,” Ross said. “After that, I checked to see if he had a medical ID; was he diabetic? There was no medical ID. I started calling his name; he wasn’t breathing, there was no pulse. I performed CPR and compressions right away.”

Meanwhile, Philhower remained on the phone with the 911 operator and reported what Ross was doing to help Perry, until the paramedics arrived just six minutes after the 911 call. Ross resuscitated Perry, who was immediately rushed to IU Saxony Hospital in Fishers and placed into a medically induced coma. He had surgery Nov. 21 to place an implantable cardioverter defibrillator into his heart. Perry was released from the hospital two days later and is now home recuperating.

“I am thankful and blessed,” Perry said of being rescued. “God put everyone in place to put me through this. I had a chance at life again.”

Perry’s wife, Jamie, added that everyone who had a part in saving his life “went above and beyond what was necessary. We do like to make sure they are thanked,” she said.

Jamie also referred to Ross, who stopped by to visit Perry each day he was in the hospital, as a “second family.

Ross, who lost her own father to cancer, has spent a lot of time with Perry’s family. She said she would do anything to get her dad back, and was glad she took part in bringing Perry back to life to be with his own family.

“Knowing what I did to contribute, to see his family happy was worth more to me than the award,” she said.

Ross has also become friends with Philhower, whose class wrote cards to Perry in the hospital. Fall Creek Elementary regularly teaches lessons in character, and Principal Amy Jackson delivered a message after Perry’s rescue about helping society.

“I think the accident did bring awareness to quite a few people,” Philhower said. “We talked about it and how even little things you do can help people.”

Although Philhower considers her act of calling 911 a small feat, John Melling, captain of Fire & Emergency Services for the Fishers Fire Dept., disagrees.

“These heroes were a very important link in the survivability chain,” he said. “If the victim had not been pulled from the icy water, if no one knew CPR or if 911 had not been contacted, this scene likely would have had a different outcome.

“The Fishers Fire Department recognizes the heroic acts these four individuals completed,” he continued. “They saved a life. They stepped into a situation and made it better because of their own personal acts. All aspects of the emergency system worked just the way it should and as a community, we applaud their accomplishment. Their personal choices that day made a difference.”

Friends & Family CPR course: Steve Davison, division chief of Fishers Fire Dept. emergency medical services said, “There is a direct correlation between bystander CPR and survivability of a cardiac arrest event.” It is estimated that every minute effective CPR is not performed decreases survivability by one percent, which is why the Fishers Fire Dept. is holding a Friends and Family CPR course for those ages 16 and older from 9 to 11 a.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 11 at Delaware Township Community Center, 9094 E. 131st St., Fishers. The class is free to participants who bring one canned or non-perishable food item for a local food bank. Participants must register by contacting Barb Hathaway at 595.3225 by Feb. 4.

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