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Gulfport man reunited with Good Samaritan who saved his life

Eric Ward was driving down the road last month when he suffered a heart attack, resulting in the vehicle crashing.
Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 7:19 AM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - After 40 days in the hospital, a Gulfport man is back home recovering following a heart attack that nearly took his life.

Eric Ward was driving down the road last month when he suffered a heart attack, resulting in the vehicle crashing.

“I didn’t think I would see my wife again. I didn’t think I would see my family again. That’s how scary it was,” he said.

He says the reason he survived the ordeal is all thanks to a Good Samaritan who was in the right place at the right time.

On Sunday, just days after Ward was released from the hospital, loved ones lined up down his street to welcome him home and let him know they were praying for his recovery.

Friends, family and neighbors gathered Sunday to welcome home Eric Ward, who spent 40 days in...
Friends, family and neighbors gathered Sunday to welcome home Eric Ward, who spent 40 days in the hospital after suffering a heart attack while driving.(WLOX)

Among those there to wish him well was the man credited with saving his life.

It was an emotional moment as Ward met Chris Walton face-to-face for the first time.

“Although he told me not to get up, I had to get up and give him a hug because, aside from God, I feel like he was the one who saved my life,” said Ward.

Ward and Walton met for the first time since the incident Sunday.
Ward and Walton met for the first time since the incident Sunday.(WLOX)

Walton saw the accident and ran to the rescue, pulling Ward from the vehicle and performing CPR on him. Doctors would later tell Ward that’s what ultimately saved his life.

“I’m 51 years old and (it was) the first time I’ve ever had to do CPR for real, and I’m just thankful that I was able to,” Walton said.

Walton was an Air Force instructor for years and was trained in CPR during his time in the service. He was pulling Ward out of the vehicle when he realized that Ward is also a veteran.

“Immediately, it was, ‘Just get him help,” recalled Walton. “Then, I saw Army Veteran on his seat covers and that just kind of made it more important for me as a fellow veteran to help him and help him survive.”

Ward says he does not remember anything from the accident, only waking up in the ICU. He spent 40 days in the hospital before being released on Tuesday.

Seeing him home and doing so much better is something his friends, family and community have looked forward to.

“We have prayed a long time for Eric’s healing. We just thank the Lord that he is healed,” said Patrice Torricelli, who attends church with Ward.

Common Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Common Symptoms of a Heart Attack(American Heart Association)

According to the American Heart Association, signs of a heart attack can include:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This can occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs. Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

If you’re driving and experience any of those symptoms, you should immediately ease off the accelerator, if possible, and try to find an opening in the flow of traffic to allow you to steer to a safe place and bring the vehicle to a standstill as soon as possible. If you have a passenger with you, ask them to assist you to steer the car to safety.

Timing is everything when it comes to heart attacks, warn doctors. It’s important to get to an emergency room as soon as possible, whether by ambulance or by private vehicle. Getting a patient to an angiogram-competent hospital within an hour of the onset of symptoms can be life-saving.

If you’re a little far from a hospital or unable to drive there, immediately contact emergency services and tell them where you are parked and the type of car you are driving.

CPR should be applied if the patient goes into cardiac arrest by performing manual chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth ventilation to preserve brain function until emergency help can arrive. If you’re not trained in CPR, experts advise providing hands-only CPR, which would mean uninterrupted chest compressions of 100 to 120 a minute until paramedics arrive. Push down in the middle of the chest as hard as you can, fairly quickly. If you are fairly confident in your ability, start CPR with 30 chest compressions before checking the airway and giving rescue breaths.

To find a CPR class near you, visit the American Heart Association’s website.

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