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Lodi golfers honored for helping keep friend alive during his heart attack

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Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:04 am, Wed Oct 19, 2011.

It was just after 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 20. Bruce Aschenbrenner, Jim Sanders and retired Lodi fire marshal Verne Person were partnered with Lodi resident Elwood Frates, 91, for the Men’s Club Championship Golf Tournament at Micke Grove Regional Park.

It was a perfect day for golfing, but Frates was still angrily muttering to himself about the double bogey he shot on the fifth hole, Aschenbrenner said.

Frates wanted to do better, but hooked his ball on the sixth hole. He spun around and marched to his golf cart, unhappy.

Aschenbrenner was next to the tee.

But right before he pulled back his club back to swing, a loud snore behind him broke his concentration.

“It was a slow day, so it was not out of character at some point for (Frates) to maybe take a snooze,” he said. “Fifteen minutes a hole gets old after a while.”

Aschenbrenner refocused, reaching his arms back. But another long, loud snore ripped through the air.

Aschenbrenner, Person and Sanders turned around to look at Frates, who they thought was napping.

Instead, Frates was rigid in his seat, eyes rolled back.

Something was very wrong.

Frates was going into cardiac arrest.

Still beating

Person ran to Frates’ golf cart, stepped on the gas and drove towards the clubhouse, Aschenbrenner and Sanders in tow.

“You know how fast golf carts go,” Sanders said. “We were stuck at a whopping speed of 15 miles per hour.”

Digging into his pocket, Aschenbrenner grabbed his cellphone and dialed 911.

Person reached the clubhouse and lay Frates out on the ground, where he began performing CPR.

Aschenbrenner stayed on the phone with the operator, who instructed the men on not only how hard to do do compressions against Frates’ chest, but how often to do it as well.

“She was counting right along with us,” Aschenbrenner said. “She was telling me to shut up, to have Person press harder, to go faster. She kept us all in line.”

Soon, emergency medical services arrived. To everyone’s surprise, Frates’ heart was still beating.

The golfing buddies had done what seemed to be nearly impossible — they had kept Frates alive.

As the ambulance whisked Frates to the hospital, the men stayed behind to try to cope with the situation.

“We went and got a drink and then went back to playing golf,” Sanders said. “It was what Elwood would have wanted us to do.”

‘Certainly missed’

On Tuesday, Aschenbrenner, Sanders and Person were honored for their efforts that day by American Medical Response paramedic Julie Lindemann.

The men each accepted a certificate of recognition as well as pin given to those who are able to keep someone alive after they suffer a heart attack.

Though Frates died four days later due to complications from his heart attack, the three golfing buddies were able to help keep Frates alive long enough to let his family say goodbye to him.

“By the time he got the hospital, he had a strong heart beat and good blood pressure,” Lindemann said. “These men are heroes.”

But coping has been hard. Person continues to think about the crowd of people who had gathered around the ambulance when Frates was taken away. Sanders says he still has trouble thinking about that day.

“I went back to the golf course the next day, shot great on the sixth hole,” Aschenbrenner said. “In two shots, I made it to the hole. I knew that was because of Elwood’s help. I couldn’t do that before. He is certainly missed.”

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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