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Back From Beyond

For more than a minute, John Cochrane was literally dead. It took a community with heart to bring him back.

MARCH 7, 2010. It was the date of the Warminster Basketball Association’s double elimination finals. Coach John Cochrane’s team of 11- and 12-year old basketball players, including John’s grandson, Hunter, was about to compete.

Mitch Shapiro and John Cochrane

The 62-year-old Richboro man felt a pang in his chest going into the gym, but stopped to catch his breath. It went away.

He really wanted to see these kids win the big championship. Besides, he had scheduled an appointment with a cardiologist for the following Wednesday. He’d had a few chest pain episodes, so it would be good to get checked out.

His kids won the first game and began the second. Every winning shot had the crowd on its feet. Then a bad referee call found John arguing the point. The next moment, he collapsed into blackness.

Two nurses in the crowd started to administer CPR. But John wasn’t breathing. Warminster Fire Chief and friend Mitch Shapiro dashed to where William Tennant High School kept the Automated Electric Defibrillator (AED) and yelled for someone to call 9-1-1. Mitch placed the AED leads on John’s chest and shocked him.

The 62-year-old insurance agency owner
is understandably emotional about the many
people who helped him "COME BACK"
after his massive heart attack.

Just as suddenly, John awoke. Somehow, he recognized his wife Elaine’s voice in the chaos. She was crying, "Please, please don’t let him die."

No one would. Not Mitch. Not the rescue squad. Not Abington’s Emergency Trauma Center and Cardiology teams. And not Mauricio Garrido, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon, who precisely grafted bypasses around three clogged arteries to John’s heart.

"They were waiting for me in the emergency room," John says. "There were all these big things happening, but they had the little things taken care of, too." Someone was waiting to park his wife’s car, as she was following the ambulance and desperate to be with John.

Abington Cardiologist Peter B. Frechie, DO, prepped John for an emergency cardiac catheterization. "We just really bonded," John explains. "He showed me how one of my arteries was 95% blocked. I was awake and coherent when Dr. Garrido came in."

The cardiothoracic surgeon asked John if he’d like to have family present when he explained the procedure. "I had about 40 relatives and friends out in the waiting room by that time," John continues. "Dr. Garrido gladly talked to them all, answering everyone’s questions." Coronary artery bypass grafting involves removing a healthy artery from the chest wall or a vein in the leg, and precisely stitching it to the coronary artery beyond the blockage. Oxygenated blood flows freely to the heart muscle again.

John adds, "Twice a day or more, I saw both Dr. Frechie and Dr. Garrido. And not just a three-minute check – they actually sat on edge of the bed and listened. These doctors made a believer out of me. And the nurses – everyone was wonderful to me."

The day John was discharged, Dr. Garrido met with him and his wife. "He asked me for Mitch’s number."

The surgeon called the fire chief right away. Dr. Garrido explains, "The real heroes in this story are Fire Chief Shapiro and the nurses who acted decisively at the scene to get Mr. Cochrane’s heart started. Nurses, firefighters and police officers deserve to be recognized like this every day for their lifesaving efforts."

And the basketball game? It never did finish, and the teams shared the winning title.

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