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Bystanders jump into action when man suffers cardiac arrest at Cal Poly game

Posted at 6:57 PM, Jan 14, 2019

Quick action by some fans at the Cal Poly Men’s Basketball game over the weekend saved a man’s life.

It happened at around 9 p.m. on Saturday. Bystanders tell us that the game was in overtime when a fan in the stands became unresponsive. That’s when other fans jumped into action and saved his life.

“There was one minute left in the Cal Poly Men’s Basketball game on Saturday night and suddenly it seemed like there was some kind of commotion going on in the stands and I looked up and I saw that there was a group of people standing around a man that looked like he had kind of frozen up or was unresponsive,” said witness Katie Ferber.

A Cal Poly athletic trainer, an off-duty Lompoc firefighter, and an off-duty ER doctor from Marian Regional Medical Center sprang into action.

Three rounds of CPR were performed while using an automated external defibrillator, or AED.

“The whole crowd was just on edge the whole time,” Ferber explained. “I don’t know how many minutes went by. It seemed like a long time just because everyone was waiting with bated breath to see if the man was okay.”

“They absolutely saved his life and it made all the difference,” said San Luis Obispo Fire Department Interim Chief Keith Aggson. “The patient communicated to the paramedics that at one moment he was watching the game and the next moment he was up on the gurney and was having a conversation with the paramedics and could not recall anything.”

The fans cheered when the man, who was later identified as Tom Martin, became visibly responsive again and was then wheeled away on a stretcher.

Martin responded to the men who saved him in a statement to KSBY, saying:

I’m so thankful for the fast, professional response by the medical personnel in attendance. I’m thankful to French Hospital for donating the AED to Cal Poly and I’m forever grateful to Louis C Farah Jr., Lompoc fire paramedic, Cal Poly Athletic Training Staff and Dr. David Aloysius Ketelaar a Marian ER doctor for saving my life. I’m alive with all my brain functions intact because of their fast action.” 

Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong was also at the game. He took to Twitter and praised everyone who jumped into action. He’s been in contact with the Mustang fan.

“He’s doing quite well now and he went home today, so that’s the best thing that absolutely could happen that he’s going to be just fine and he’s excited about attending his next game,” President Armstrong said.

Meantime, the fire department says learning hands-only CPR is invaluable.

It’s also recommended that community members download PulsePoint, a free smartphone app that alerts bystanders within 1,000 feet of a patient in need of CPR and shows the location of the nearest AED.

“I think it’s just miraculous that the community came together… and you can tell everyone was thinking just great thoughts for the man before we knew that he was okay,” Ferber concluded.

She said the man gave a little wave to the crowd as he was being wheeled away and that’s how fans knew he was going to be okay.

The PulsePoint app is free to download. It shows you how to do hands-only CPR when there’s an emergency. It’s used in more than 3,300 communities with more than 1,200,000 users.

The American Heart Association published a video about how to perform “Hands only” CPR. To view it, click here.