By Deb Silverthorn
It was early on Sunday, Aug. 28, at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church (LLUMC), that — in a blink — Bob Richardson went from praising the Lord to gracing him in a whole new way and in just minutes.
On that morning, Richardson went into cardiac arrest during services. Dr. Gary Weinstein happened to be at the service and sprang into action. Weinstein became embraced then, truly and forevermore.
“There was no pulse, no breath and I started CPR,” said Dr. Weinstein, who noticed Leigh Richardson shaking her husband at the end of their pew.
While Dr. Weinstein performed CPR, LLUMC’s Senior Pastor Stan Copeland called 911. Patty Knott, who was sitting in the next row, ran to get the church’s automated external defibrillators (AED). She is a church staffer who doesn’t usually attend that service. Had she not been there that day, no one might have realized where the machine was. Since then, many have been made aware and three more AEDs have been purchased.
“After a couple of minutes, we shocked him with the AED but there was still no pulse. More CPR brought a weak pulse and as we kept his airway open it became stronger. The paramedics came and off to Presby he went,” said Dr. Weinstein, a member of Temple Emanu-El. He was at the service with his wife, Dr. Donna Casey, accompanying his father-in-law, Dr. Franklin Casey.
For the Rev. Donna Whitehead, the experience was a first in her 42 years of service in ministry, 22 at LLUMC. She serves the church but at that 8:15 a.m. service she was sitting in the pews near the Richardsons as a parishioner.
“The whole experience was life-changing for us all and it was a day that clearly symbolized, despite our difference of religions, we are all one,” said Rev. Whitehead. “This was no ‘coincidence,’ but a ‘God incidence.’ It felt like an angel appeared when Dr. Weinstein came over and started CPR and his wife, also a doctor, found a pulse. The grace of a breath of relief came over us all.
“We were in the Shipps Chapel and certainly his spirit was in the room,” Rev. Whitehead said. She noted that the Jewish community and LLUMC have a history in that its first sanctuary was funded by A. Pollard Simons, a Jewish man who was close friends with the congregation’s first pastor, Rev. Thomas Shipps. “God shows up every Sunday, every single day, but that day Dr. Weinstein shared such a real and present gift.”
Raised in Wichita, Kansas, Dr. Weinstein is the son of Phyliss and the late Harry Weinstein, the brother of Marla Amsden and the father of Beatrice Mitchell and Kyle Weinstein. He graduated from the undergraduate program and School of Medicine at the University of Kansas.
After moving to Dallas in 1989, Dr. Weinstein completed a fellowship in pulmonary/critical care medicine at UT Southwestern Medical School. Since his arrival in Dallas, he has been affiliated with Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where he met his wife.
At Southwest Pulmonary Associates, Dr. Weinstein is a partner of and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine as well as the medical director of the intensivist program, the asthma management program and the respiratory therapy department.
Richardson, 73, is the father of Chris (Henri) and Jon (Erin) and grandfather of Byrd. He had never had such an episode before. While he has atrial fibrillation, it was previously controlled by medication. While recovering at the hospital, he had an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) installed so that if he suffers an arrythmia again, it will return him to regular rhythm on its own.
That did happen. Just one month later, when he was in Washington, D.C., for a conference, he passed out. The ICD kicked in and when he arrived at a hospital there, doctors were able to retrieve a report of what had occurred.
Richardson, who considers his lifestyle a healthy one even before these episodes, says he has since quit drinking alcohol entirely and is being even more vigilant about his own care.
“I’m an Eagle Scout, I know how to do CPR, so does my wife, but it’s something we all need to keep up with, to practice. No one is ‘bullet proof,’ and to be there, able to save a life — it’s just incredible,” said Richardson.
He and his wife made a donation to Temple Emanu-El in Dr. Weinstein’s name after he recovered. “Dr. Weinstein truly saved my life. I can’t ever thank him enough.”
The incident at LLUMC underscores the importance of knowing CPR and having AEDs available.
“I’m glad I was there but really everyone needs to know how to do CPR and an AED in any public building is really important — also that people know where they are and how to use them. It’s simple, really very easy but so important,” said Dr. Weinstein.
Robyn Mirsky has been training individuals and professionals, of all ages, in the Jewish community and beyond for more than 15 years. Last summer, Mirsky trained the counselors of Chabad of Plano’s Gan Izzy and in September trained teens at Congregation Shaare Tefilla.
“This is such an important skill, an easy one, to learn even for the pre-teens I’ve worked with. The faster someone receives CPR, the greater their chance of survival. We teach to provide chest compressions to the tune of ‘Stayin’ Alive’ and that’s just what’s likely to happen,” said Mirsky.
Richardson commented, “Mark Twain said, ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.’ Dr. Weinstein was born for much but, for me, the morning of Aug. 28 was his why.”
To reach Robyn Mirsky to learn more about CPR training, email email@example.com.