Neighbors rush to the rescue after heart attack

John O'Callaghan was known by his friends and community to be a healthy person. His wife, Whitney, said he's never had health complications, doesn't eat red meat and works out consistently. And according to their friend and neighbor, Jim Knapp, O'Callaghan played a season in the National Football League as a tight end for the Seattle Seahawks.

It was a surprise to Whitney O'Callaghan when she received a phone call on July 6 that her husband was down on the ground at Marina High School and didn't have a pulse, she said.

"I don't know what I was thinking, because I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me. You can't be talking about my husband,'" she said. "If you knew my husband, you'd know how crazy this is. It's crazy. We still can't believe it."

She said John, 49, was with their two children and a neighbor's child at the field at Marina that afternoon kicking around a soccer ball, something he does every week. But at around 3 p.m., he suffered a heart attack and began to go into cardiac arrest.

During that time, Marina baseball coach Bob Marshall was hosting a baseball tournament at the field.

As the diamond was being prepared for another game and the teams were warming up, Marshall, a Huntington Beach resident, was at a snack bar and was approached by O'Callaghan's 7-year-old son, Aidan, who asked the coach to help his father.

"I saw he was down and I started running to get a defibrillator because I didn't know what was going on," Marshall said.

While Marshall and his son, Nick, were getting the automated external defibrillator from a nearby classroom, a coach from one of the teams and a friend of Marshall's, John Hoetker, ran to O'Callaghan and started to perform CPR.

"When I got there, O'Callaghan was on his back and his kids were there crying," said Hoetker, who is also a Huntington Beach resident. "I immediately checked his pulse and he wasn't breathing. He didn't have a pulse."

It was neither Marshall nor Hoetker's first time trying to save another person's life. Hoetker is a narcotics detective for the Brea Police Department and has been in law enforcement for the last 24 years. Marshall has been certified to teach CPR and defibrillator use and had to use the device five years ago on one of his assistant coaches.

Marshall soon arrived with the defibrillator and gave O'Callaghan a shock, praying that they had gotten to him in time to save his life.

"All I heard in the background was [Aidan] going, 'Please save my daddy. Don't let him die,'" Marshall said. "I was saying [to myself], 'Oh my God, Lord, please let this thing work.'"

Hoetker said they were able to get a shallow pulse when they shocked O'Callaghan, but lost it. Paramedics arrived soon after and shocked him again, this time maintaining the pulse.

"He actually went twice," Hoetker said.

Paramedics took O'Callaghan to Fountain Valley Regional Hospital where he was sent to its catheterization laboratory, a facility that uses equipment to look at the arteries of the heart, Whitney O'Callaghan said.

She said they put him in a blanket which induces hypothermia, lowering his body temperature so his brain and organs can heal.

Knapp said O'Callaghan was moved out of intensive care on July 16 and is making progress.

"He's joined a rehab right now. We have a long road of that ahead of us," Whitney O'Callaghan said. "His long-term memory is good, but he doesn't remember anything as far as what had happened that Saturday."

Marshall and Hoetker said they did what they were trained to do. This time, they used their training on a member of the neighborhood.

Knapp lived across the street from the O'Callaghans for about seven years and invited the family to his house for a party to celebrate the end of their Robinwood Little League season last year, he said.

Hoetker and Marshall were also invited to the gathering. Knapp was an assistant coach on Hoetker's team and had been friends with Marshall since high school, Knapp said.

"I got a phone call from Jim Knapp on the Thursday afterward and he said, 'You saved my neighbor's life' and then he told me who it was," Hoetker said. "It's a small world."

Marshall said everything needed to fall into place in order to save O'Callaghan. Had they gotten to him minutes later or if there wasn't a baseball tournament, he said O'Callaghan would have been dead.

"That's what blows my mind," Marshall said. "Everything has to work out."

Whitney O'Callaghan, too, hasn't yet comprehended what had happened to her husband.

"It's been horrible. It's been like a nightmare," she said. "I feel like I'm having an out of body experience. It's surreal. I just can't believe it happened to me."

Whitney hasn't talked to Hoetker and Marshall as of Thursday, but would like to thank them for what they did.

Knapp wrote in an email on Friday that O'Callaghan is back home and recovering.

"How do you thank two people that saved your husband's life?" Whitney O'Callaghan said. "It's been too soon for me to call them and talk to them. I don't even know how to do that, but I will."

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