OCMS teacher puts heart and soul into teaching CPR

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Teacher and Athletic Director Mark Woodward with two CPR mannequins that he uses to teach CPR to eighth-graders at Owensboro Catholic Middle School.

When Mark Woodward teaches CPR to eighth-graders at Owensboro Catholic Middle School, he really puts his heart into it.

That's because someone trained in CPR saved his life 42 years ago — when Woodward was only 14.

Woodward, now 56, remembers events that led up to his sudden cardiac arrest in December 1976.

Owensboro Catholic High School coach Denny Ward had asked members of the basketball team to run full-court sprints. On one of his laps, Woodward felt dizzy and stumbled.

"I remember the coach picked me up off the floor," he said. "Then, I don't remember anything until I woke up in the emergency room."

That's because Woodward collapsed again. But the second time, his breathing stopped. He had no pulse, and he started to turn blue.

On that day, Bill Blincoe happened to be in the gym to pick up his son, who was working out with weights.

Blincoe worked at GE, where he had learned CPR.

Blincoe ran over and put his ear to Woodward's chest. He heard a heartbeat, so he started "the heart massage technique" he had learned by watching films at work.

"We got his color back," Blincoe later told Messenger-Inquirer reporter Art Kaul. "We never did get a beat back. He was dead as far as I could tell."

At Owensboro's Our Lady of Mercy Hospital, nurses attached heart monitors and waited for a doctor to arrive.

Still no beat.

Blincoe never left Woodward's side. The man kept pumping Woodward's chest until the doctor came.

At some point, OCHS principal the Rev. Gerald Calhoun administered last rites because everyone thought Woodward was dead.

But thanks to Blincoe, his knowledge of CPR and his unwillingness to give up, Woodward lived.

He lived to marry his high school sweetheart, Susan, 35 years ago. The couple have four children and 6 1/2 grandchildren. (No. 7 is on the way.)

"I'm lucky to be alive," Woodward said. "It just wasn't my time."

Today, Woodward serves as the OCMS athletic director. He teaches middle school science and physical education.

And for the past five years, he has taught CPR to middle schoolers.

When kids graduate from OCMS, they are certified to perform the life-saving technique on infants, children and adults. They are trained to use an automated external defibrillator, and they know basic first aid.

It means a lot to Woodward because he wasn't much older than they are when he suffered from sudden cardiac arrest.

"Look at all the students' lives he's touched," said Owensboro Catholic Schools nurse Sherry Krampe. "Mark has had a big impact on our community. Without Bill Blincoe's intervention that day, none of this would have happened."

In fact, Woodward helped save Krampe a few years ago when she suffered from an allergic reaction to antibiotics. He gave her an EpiPen injection.

And when an OCMS teacher severed an artery in his leg about a decade ago, Woodward came to the rescue. He bandaged the wound and kept pressure on it until an ambulance arrived.

Back to 1976 and the rest of the story: Woodward spent up to a month in the hospital after his cardiac arrest at age 14. Two weeks of that time was spent in intensive care.

"I was told by one of the doctors in Owensboro I would never play competitive sports again," he said. "That was my life at that age."

But his family sought a second opinion at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "They said (the heart attack) was a fluke. They couldn't find anything wrong," Woodward said.

By July 1977, he was back on football field, and he stuck with baseball for a couple more years.

But Woodward gave up basketball after his heart attack.

"I thought it was a sign that I needed to give up something," he said.

Blincoe died in March 2006, but the memory of what he did that day in December 1976 lives on with the Woodward family.

Susan Woodward is so thankful Blincoe was in the gym and knew how to administer CPR.

Only two years later, a friend would introduce her to Mark Woodward.

The Woodwards have been sweethearts since she was 16.

"I don't have a memory without him in it," she said.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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