HSC Cowtown medical team, CPR helped save runner’s life

By Diane Smith-Pinckney 

Jb Web

Bryce Schilling credits bystander CPR with his second chance at life. 

The Dallas accountant, 27, collapsed after participating in The Cowtown Half Marathon on May 8. His memory is foggy, but he remembers crossing the finish line and dropping to the ground. 

“Everything went black,” Schilling said. 

John Sims, director of The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s SaferCare Texas, was about 50 yards away when Schilling fell. He rushed to help. 

“I rolled him over and I knew when I saw him laying down that this was not exhaustion,” said Sims, who was volunteering with The Cowtown’s medical team. “When he was laying there, he wasn’t supporting himself at all. I flipped him over. I saw that he was blue and I immediately started doing chest compressions.” 

Giving CPR is part of Sims’ work as a registered nurse, but on May 8 that skill served as a reminder that CPR can save lives in unexpected situations. 

“At that moment, without immediate CPR, he would have died,” said Sims, MSN, RN, CNL. 

Sims, HSC students and The City of Fort Worth Fire Department assisted Schilling, who was placed on an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) before being transported to Texas Health Harris in Fort Worth. 

Schilling said while doctors are not certain of a diagnosis, he was treated for pre-coronary artery disease and now has an Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) to protect him. It monitors his heart rhythm and in emergencies could shock Schilling’s heart. 

“Hopefully, it won’t have to be needed again,” Schilling said. 

HSC is a founding partner of The Cowtown. Every year, HSC physicians and students manage the event’s entire onsite medical response. 

Sims was part of the HSC medical team that includes HSC faculty, staff and students.  

“We were watching the runners – making sure they were OK,” Sims said, adding that they were also cheering runners. 

The medical team works to care for participants of The Cowtown. The team, including medical students, treats dehydration, abrasions, skin tears and sprains. 

“It has always been wonderful to see the students thrive,” Sims said of the experience. “They are so hungry to learn.” 

Andy Thomas, a third-year student at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, was among students helping during The Cowtown. 

“Volunteering at the medical tent is invaluable to our medical education,” Thomas said. “We get to practice what we have been learning in the classroom in a real-life setting. It’s great to see real patients with real injuries and concerns. So much about learning medicine is exposure. Exposure to different situations, injuries, diseases, illnesses and people. The more we train the better doctors we can become.” 

While tending to Schilling, Sims and other volunteers looked for a pulse and attended to Schilling’s agonal breathing. An oral airway was placed on Schilling to keep his airwaves open. 

Sims said recounting how CPR saved Schilling “sends chills down your spine.” 

Sims, who has been in health care for 23 years, said he’s given CPR several times without talking to the patient afterwards. 

“I have never been able to talk to an individual that I have performed CPR on because unfortunately, the people who I have performed CPR on, have been people who were either at the very end of their lives or had chronic diseases where they were very, very sick,” Sims said.  

Sims said bystander CPR is extremely important because when the heart isn’t working, seconds count so organs can remain viable. Schilling’s case was a prime example of how prompt CPR saves lives. 

“We were able to provide CPR just seconds after the event occurred,” Sims said, stressing: “Bystanders need to get trained with CPR.” 

Sims said this experience touches him personally too. Sims’ son, who passed away in 2017, would have been the same age at Schilling. 

“It’s emotional in so many different ways,” Sims said. “I am thankful that I was there that day and I am thankful that I had the training to save his life.” 

Schilling said doctors told him he was lucky to be alive. 

“I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t be alive,” said Schilling, who was born and raised in Lubbock. 

Schilling, who is active in golf and running, has a history of participating in sports; including high school track and weightlifting. He never experienced any chest pains before his collapse.  

Now, he is watching what he eats while taking a break from exercise. 

This year’s Half Marathon was Schilling’s first one. Participating in the event in the future is one of his goals, he said. He wants to ease back into running when able, he said. 

“The goal is to keep running” Schilling said. “I have a lot more years left to live.” 

Schilling said he is lucky to have a second chance and grateful to Sims and the people who helped him after his collapse. 

“Everyone who was there, they saved my life. I am super grateful,” Schilling said. 

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