In front of a fire station full of dignitaries and first responders, it was citizen Shelby Stuckey, of Valencia, who was asked to the front of the room Friday to receive commendations for heroism.
On Nov. 13 of last year, Stuckey was walking her dogs like any normal day. The sun was shining, and while her two dogs scampered along in front of her, something caught her attention.
Maybe it was a lifetime of hearing her father, Lt. Robert Lund of the California Highway Patrol, talk with her about situational awareness, or the years of hearing her husband, Orange County Fire Department firefighter Christopher Stuckey, share his stories from the field, but she said she heard “panic” coming from the home she had just walked by, and she immediately whipped around in order to investigate.
“God put it on my heart that day to turn around and go to that house and to do something because something was just wrong,” said Stuckey. “I think growing up from a family of fire and police I guess I’m always really aware of my surroundings.”
She said after tying up both her dogs that she approached a woman who was hysterical and on the phone. She said she couldn’t understand her, but the feeling was in the air that for whatever reason the woman needed help.
She then peeked her head inside the door and found the source for the panic: a 43-year-old man lying on the floor in cardiac arrest.
With the habitual instinct to help someone in need, Stuckey did the only thing she thought to do in that moment: she began administering CPR.
“Honestly, I just went into, ‘I gotta do what I have to do,’” said Stuckey. “I just went into action.”
Stuckey would perform chest compressions until Fire Department officials could relieve her and apply an automatic external defibrillator to deliver a single shock to the patient. But until the machine was ready, Stuckey was asked to continue her chest compressions until Engine 156 could arrive, as her form was at a “perfect rate and depth.”
And even after being relieved of saving the man’s life, Stuckey, according to witnesses on the scene, then stood up and walked over to the man’s wife and daughter in order to comfort them.
Dr. Clayton Kazan, medical director for the Fire Department, spoke during Friday’s ceremony to the importance of the first few minutes in a cardiac arrest call, saying that a person generally has a 10-minute window to receive treatment if they are in cardiac arrest, and the average fire crew arrives at the five- or six-minute mark, he said.
A person conducting streetside CPR can extend that window further, possibly saving a life, Kazan said.
After the man was placed in the back of an ambulance, Stuckey was lauded as a hero on the scene, but walked away without giving her name to those present, carrying on with the dog walk she had first started.
The firefighters who saw her that day realized they didn’t have her name, and spent the next few days tracking her down, hoping to thank her and give her some kind of recognition.
And on Friday, at Fire Station 156, the same station that responded to the call three months previously, Stuckey was being applauded by career first responders for her actions. Both Chief Anderson Mackey and Kazan, medical director for Los Angeles County Fire Department, called her a hero and thanked her for her service.
Officials also spoke to the importance of more citizens knowing how to use streetside CPR.
“The first few moments when somebody goes into cardiac arrest are some of the most important moments,” said Capt. William Whalen of the fire station. “So a citizen jumping in and doing CPR … it’s critical to the survival of that patient.”
“I don’t feel like a hero, I just feel like I did what someone should do in that situation,” said Stuckey. “I met him a week and a half later, and he looked great.”
“I hope that out of this, that people should be more aware that, ‘I don’t know CPR, I should go take a class,’” she added.