Kevin Reece, KHOU 11 News 11:06 p.m. CST February 24, 2015
LEAGUE CITY, Texas - When Clear Lake Regional Medical Center held a reunion last month for all the people who helped save a man from a near-fatal heart attack, there was one person missing.
But 911 operator Russ Cox is used to being an unsung hero. And he's OK with that, as long as his work helped bring about a happy ending.
Richard Gengler, 61, collapsed in the front yard of his League City home on a 98 degree day last September while playing catch with neighbor and minor league baseball player Tanner Griggs. It was a massive heart attack. His heart stopped. He'd stopped breathing. Griggs sprinted to his house a few doors down to get his cell phone to call for help.
He reached the League City 911 Center at the League City Public Safety Building and 21-year communications veteran Russ Cox. League City says its system identified the caller as being at a home on Jessamine Way, but Cox made sure he had an exact address first from Griggs as the conversation began.
"He's not breathing," Griggs said in the nearly 6-minute 911 recording.
"OK do you know CPR sir," asked the dispatcher as he alerted the nearest EMS crew.
"No sir I do not. Not one bit," answered Griggs.
"OK we're gonna learn together here OK," Cox said. "It's OK. Take a deep breath. We're gonna help him out here OK?"
"You're saying he's not breathing so I need you to go ahead and start CPR on him if you will. Put one of your hands right there on his sternum," Cox said instructing Griggs on the fundamentals of CPR.
"I really don't know what I'm doing. I can't do this. I can't do this. It's freaking me out," said Griggs.
"Sir I need you to try and help him if you can," said Cox in a calm voice.
"Sir I'm going my best. I just don't know what to do," said Griggs.
"When they call 911 they're at their worst," Cox told us in an interview at the League City Public Safety Building. "But he (Griggs) did a great job following my instructions. And to be able to talk them down and get them through it and have a good outcome is always a good feeling."
And this story did have a good outcome. Griggs did enough CPR for paramedics to get there in time. Medic units arrived at the 5-minute mark of the 911 call, continued CPR and used a defibrillator multiple times. Gengler was eventually treated at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center for a 100 percent blockage in one artery and a major blockage in another. The retired heavy equipment operator has fully recovered, thanks to a neighbor and a 911 operator who helped guide that neighbor through basic life-saving procedures.
"It's very gratifying when you can actually see that what we're doing in our 911 Center makes a difference," said Cox.
Cox says he has provided the same life-saving instructions over the phone at least twice before. League City has also honored him in the pat as "Telecommunicator of the Year". And not long after the September incident Cox retired from the League City 911 Center. He has since taken a similar job in West Columbia.
Gengler and Griggs, meanwhile, signed up to take a CPR class this month - together.