HARTVILLE – Dinner was over and the family had just ordered pie at the Hartville Kitchen on Valentine’s Day when Scott Hostler noticed something wasn’t quite right with his father.
Moments later, strangers rushed to his side, helping as he started CPR on the most important man in his life.
Doctors later told the family that, without their efforts, 71-year-old Gary Hostler of Hartville would not have survived.
“I helped, (but) I wasn’t the only one,” said Scott Hostler of Lake Township. “I’m just thankful we were there together. And I just thank God it was there because, if it would’ve happened at home or something like that, … my dad, he’s my best friend and I can’t imagine life without him.”
Gary Hostler declined to comment for this article. Scott and and Scott’s wife Erin Hostler said he told them that he only wants to get on with his life, the life he credits his son and the kind strangers who were nearby for saving.
Earlier that evening, Greg Kenepp, his wife and their son Gerritt Kenepp couldn’t agree where to go for dinner.
Both Kenepps are law enforcement officers. They work for the Summa Health Protective Services/Police Department that serves the hospital system. Gerritt Kenepp works full time. His father, a retired Cuyahoga Falls police officer who also taught CPR for several years, works part time for Summa and as a security officer at the John F. Seiberling Federal Building in Akron. The elder Kenepp also teaches at a police academy.
The Kenepp family hoped to avoid Valentine’s Day dinner crowds, opting instead for a quieter dining experience. They were on the fence to go either to the Waterloo Restaurant in Akron or the Hartville Kitchen.
They flipped a coin.
The Hartville Kitchen won.
And, before the night was over, so would the Hostler family.
Across the busy dining room, Scott Hostler had been talking to his dad at their table. Server Paige Hershberger had just taken orders for pie for the Hostler party of nine, which also included Scott Hostler’s mom, sister, her daughter, his wife and their three children.
At some point, Gary Hostler’s head dropped.
“He made a face,” Scott Hostler recalled. “I thought, ‘What’d I say (so upsetting)?’ But a second later, he had his head up. I continued talking. Then he did it again. The next thing I know, my mom said that he’s losing his color. I looked and he was pale. White. And I thought, ‘Omigosh …'”
Back in 2013, the Hostlers were driving when his dad suffered a heart attack. Scott Hostler had pulled his truck into the nearby Uniontown Fire Department where medics examined his dad before taking him to Summa Health in Green and then on to Summa Barberton Hospital. Gary Hostler underwent heart surgery. Doctors inserted four stents into his chest.
At their Hartville Kitchen table last week, Gary Hostler slumped over in his chair.
Jennifer Robinson — Scott’s sister and Gary’s daughter — caught him and held him up while Scott Hostler called 911.
Their dad coughed several times.
Then he stopped breathing.
Gerritt Kenepp, whose seat faced the Hostler party, quickly got his own father’s attention with the words, “We gotta move. He’s down.”
Scott Hostler moved Gary Hostler to the floor before the Kenepps and another diner known only as “Jack” could join him.
“There was no pulse and he was getting really cold. So I started doing chest compressions right away,” Scott Hostler recalled.
Greg Kenepp took over compressions. Jack administered “breaths” with assistance from Gerritt Kenepp.
As the men worked to revive Gary Hostler, server Rachel Brown ran to the cashier area to get the AED or automated external defibrillator. The device is used to help send an electric pulse or shock to the heart of someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest.
Kitchen manager Andy Kithas took the AED from Brown and ran with it to the men on the floor, said Ellen Wagler, dining room manager. Another diner, identified as nurse practitioner Colleen Eicher, grabbed it, unwrapped the pads on machine and handed them to Greg Kenepp.
Greg Kenepp placed the pads onto Gary Hostler. He and Eicher called for everyone to stand clear.
Eicher hit the buttons.
The machine administered a single shock.
Greg Kenepp resumed compressions, continuing until it appeared that Gary Hostler began to breathe on his own.
About then, Hartville Fire Department medics arrived.
Scott Hostler said doctors later told him and his family that his father did not suffer a heart attack, but instead, “his heart got out of rhythm and stopped beating. It took that shock to really get his heart going again.
“They did a heart catheter to check the stents from the original heart attack (in 2013) and everything looked really good. They inserted a defibrillator under his left collar bone.”
Erin Hostler said doctors also said he had gone into cardiac arrest and that the AED had likely saved his life.
“They said that only one in nine patients that go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting actually survive,” she said. “He was very lucky. And if Scott hadn’t intervened, his dad would not be here today, without a doubt.”
Scott Hostler — who hunts and fishes with his father — appreciates that the Hartville Kitchen had an AED on hand.
“The folks at the Hartville Kitchen, they were wonderful. And those machines are awesome,” he said.
Scott Hostler is a member of the fire department at the Akron-Canton Airport, and he’s trained in how to use one.
He and Greg Kenepp said they are hoping businesses that do not have AEDs work to obtain one because the life they save may be one of their own.
The Mayo Clinic lists the following signs of cardiac arrest:
When a person stops breathing, the clinic recommends calling 911, starting CPR and using a portable defibrillator to administer a single shock before resuming CPR.
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