‘It was a miracle:’ How 2 Routt County residents helped save a man’s life after he went into cardiac arrest
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It has been seven years since Oak Creek resident Brian Boos took a CPR class, but when a man collapsed suddenly last week without a pulse near Stagecoach Reservoir, he did not hesitate to provide care.
Boos and another man, Darren Ebaugh, were the two good Samaritans who helped to save the life of Shawn Kainz after he went into cardiac arrest while the three were working on a home in the 23000 block of Postrider Trail.
After what they and first responders consider a miraculous rescue, Kainz has made an almost complete recovery in less than a week.
It serves as an example of the value of knowing how to perform CPR and other basic first aid — skills that all three men said they want to refresh in the wake of the incident.
A local building contractor, Boos had recently sold the house near Stagecoach and was making some repairs to the furnace Tuesday, July 23. He called Kainz, who works with Ferrellgas, and Ebaugh, who works with JDW Construction, to help with the heating system.
Kainz admitted he had been experiencing mild chest pain, like that of heartburn, for the previous three days. He planned to go to the hospital for an examination later in the day but wanted to finish the work at the Stagecoach house first.
Around 11 a.m., Boos remembers talking to Kainz as they were finishing up the project.
“All in one second, he just hit the ground and rolled on his back, eyes glazed over,” Boos said. “He was dead when he hit the ground.”
Boos yelled to Ebaugh, who was outside by his truck. Ebaugh ran inside and began CPR while Boos dialed 911.
“It’s amazing they had cell service out there to even contact dispatch,” Fire Chief Chuck Wisecup said, who rushed to the scene with a crew of medics from the Oak Creek Fire Protection District.
Boos and Ebaugh worked together to administer chest compressions and ventilations while they waited for help to arrive.
Once on scene, medics took over CPR, then administered multiple shocks with an electric defibrillator. By that time, Kainz had been dead for about 20 minutes by Boos’ estimate.
After three or four shocks, Kainz eventually regained a pulse, according to Wisecup, and medics transported him to the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.
Back at the house, Boos and Ebaugh took a silent moment to collect themselves, hardly able to believe what had just happened.
“After they took him away in the ambulance, we both knelt down and said a prayer,” Boos said.
Kainz would lose his pulse twice on the way to the hospital, but additional defibrillation resuscitated him each time. Once in Steamboat, medical personnel flew him to a hospital in Loveland to receive further treatment.
According to his wife, Joana Ely, a nurse practitioner in Wyoming, Kainz’s right coronary artery, which helps supply blood to the heart, was completely blocked. Doctors placed him on a special pump to stabilize his heart and reduce stress to his cardiovascular system.
By Sunday, Kainz was able to leave the hospital and return home with his family. His only noticeable scar from the incident is a large bruise on the right side of his chest, which he attributed to the shocks from the defibrillator.
Ely, his wife of nine years, initially was angry he had not sought treatment for his heart pain sooner. That anger has since melted to a profound thankfulness.
“The best way to learn to appreciate someone is trying to imagine life without them,” she said.
Instrumental to Kainz’s rescue, according to Wisecup, was the immediate CPR he received from Boos and Ebaugh. In his 36 years as a first responder, this was the first time he led a successful resuscitation mission.
“I firmly believe that early intervention was key to that outcome,” he said.
Wisecup encourages everyone to learn CPR and basic first aid. Several organizations in town offer classes, including Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center and Old Town Hot Springs.
As a way to thank the two men for their help, Kainz and his wife took them out to dinner Monday, then again for lunch on Tuesday.
Ebaugh could not believe how healthy Kainz appeared.
“It was surreal to have dinner with him,” he said. “I never thought I would see him alive again.”
Kainz, too, is processing last week’s events and how lucky he is to be with his family. The experience has inspired him to give up cigarettes, which he has smoked for more than 30 years.
“I’m lucky — I really am,” he said on Tuesday after a follow-up doctor’s visit showed he was continuing to make improvements.
“I have another chance at life.”
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