Quick-thinking suburban sisters save father after remembering CPR skills from high school

Medical Watch

Two sisters put what they learned in school to the test to save their father’s life during a cardiac arrest episode.

The Sagans started 2021 with a family vacation to Arizona.

“I didn’t have any signs something was coming,” Mark Sagan said. “Never had any pain any shortness of breath, nothing.”

But back home on January 15, Sagan was doing some painting in the house when he felt something come over him.

“I think I was getting lightheaded or something and walked downstairs and said you better call somebody I don’t feel well and that was it I went down turned blue and that is the last I remember,” Sagan said.

In that moment, Sagan’s daughters remembered what to do.

“The only thing I was thinking when you’re not breathing what do you do? You do CPR,” Cora Sagan said.

Kalie called 911 as Cora started chest compressions.

In 2014, Illinois mandated high school students receive AED and CPR instruction as part of their health curriculum. The law was named for Lauren Laman, a St. Charles student who suffered cardiac arrest, yet didn’t receive immediate attention from bystanders.

Her parents envionsed future generations trained in CPR.

“If they learn it in high school and they continue down the generations, we’re going to have rooms full of people that are going to know what to do,” mother Mary Laman said.

But long before it was law, Marc Pechter was teaching the skills at Deerfield High School.

“I’ve been doing it for 20 years here. it’s been part of our curriculum for that long,” he said.

The lesson stuck with the Sagan sisters, who are now in college.

“I knew the chest compressions part which is the part you want to know for a heart attack, but it came back so fast because I haven’t thought about it much since high school,” Sagan said.

First responders eventually took over compressions and used an AED at the hospital. Doctors discovered a 100% blockage in Sagan’s left anterior descending coronary artery.

“This can definitely be a fatal situation. It’s very serious,” Dr. Rosenberg said.

A stent was placed and restored blood flow. Still, Sagan’s chances for survival were less than 40 percent.

“There is no question that Mr. Sagan’s daughters giving him CPR is what saved his life. Not having CPR for an extended period of time, even a few minutes, can cause lack of oxygen to the brain and can cause someone to die,” Dr. Rosenberg said.

For those who do not receive bystander CPR or AED assistance, the survival rate is 10%, compared to 50% for those who do.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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