Missed turn leads to life-saving moment
NORTH KINGSTOWN — A scenic drive and a missed turn might very well be the reason Jim Ladouceur of Cranston is still alive today.
Despite leading a highly active lifestyle and being what his wife Robyn calls the “picture-perfect image of health,” Jim suffered a massive heart attack on Sunday afternoon while out on a bike ride with friends. When he collapsed off his bike on Post Road in North Kingstown, Mindy Conway of West Warwick, along with several other good samaritans, sprang into action to help save his life.
The kindness of these complete strangers, according to Robyn, became the difference between life and death. And a scenic car ride, taken on a whim because Mindy had felt cooped up at home, put the right person in the right place, at exactly the right time.
“I told my husband I wanted to go for a ride, just to get out of the house,” Mindy said. “We headed in that direction, and believe it or not, we were actually supposed to take a turn before we reached that point on Post Road. We were too busy talking and we missed the turn, so we just kept going.”
If they hadn’t missed that turn, Mindy and her husband wouldn’t have come upon a man laying in the road, along with another vehicle that had already stopped to call for help. They got out of their vehicle too, and with the help of Mindy’s husband and another man, they were able to stabilize Jim’s head and remove his backpack. He was unresponsive, according to Mindy, but still breathing.
“About a minute after we took the backpack off, I was just sitting there, watching him and making sure he was doing okay,” Mindy said. “And he just stopped breathing.”
As a registered nurse, Mindy knew exactly what to do and immediately began performing CPR. As she began delivering chest compressions, her husband grabbed the CPR breathing barriers they thankfully kept in the car.
Another woman, who said she was a nurse practitioner, got out of her car to help support his head, according to Mindy. Even though Jim still wasn’t conscious, Mindy said this other woman continued to talk to him as she continued with chest compressions.
“After a few minutes he gasped and started breathing, and he had a pulse,” Mindy said, but she soon had to resume chest compressions after he stopped breathing once more.
Yet another good samaritan, who Jim’s family later learned to be Richard Pastore of North Kingstown, stopped to offer help and began delivering mouth-to-mouth – despite the potential dangers of COVID-19, according to Robyn.
Thankfully, Mindy said they were able to “get him to come back again.”
“He started breathing and he had a pulse, and by the end, the ambulance was pulling up behind us,” she said.
Having had a hysterectomy procedure two weeks before — which forced her to take some time off from her work at Rhode Island Hospital and stay “cooped up” at home while she recovers — Mindy needed some help getting to her feet once the ambulance arrived. Mindy said she went home shortly afterwards.
“It was very uncomfortable,” Mindy said with a lighthearted laugh, “but I would have done it a million times if I had to.”
It wasn’t until after Jim had already been whisked away in the ambulance, however, that his wife was able to reach the stretch of Post Road in North Kingstown near Master Homemade Donuts.
An hour before, Robyn had kissed her husband goodbye and he peddled away from home with his two friends, Chris Felaco and David Hughes. Twice a year, Robyn said the trio makes the trek from Cranston to George’s of Galilee, where she’ll meet them for lunch or dinner before carting them and their bikes back home.
“It was just going to be another bike ride,”she said.
When she got a phone call from Chris, saying that something had happened to Jim, her first thought was that he was joking and maybe one of them had a popped tire. When Chris stressed he wasn’t kidding around and Jim was off his bike, she then began to worry that he might have been hit by a car.
Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined that her husband, at 48, who frequently lifts weights, goes for bike rides and climbs mountains with his friends, would suffer from a massive heart attack. The news came as a complete shock.
“I found out that he was lagging behind his friends, which is kind of unusual, and then suddenly, he dropped in the middle of the road,” Robyn said during a phone interview on Monday afternoon, a day after going through an emotional rollercoaster with her family.
Although she hadn’t been there, between accounts from Jim’s friends, the police and the good Samaritans who jumped out of their cars and blocked traffic to help him, Robyn was able to piece together what had happened.
“Those people saved my husband’s life,” she said. “There’s just no other way of looking at it.”
While she was able to connect with the people who immediately called 911 after her husband collapsed, as well as the man who provided mouth-to-mouth, the woman who jumped out of her car to start delivering CPR remained a mystery.
The people who had called for help told Robyn that “they actually felt like they saw wings on her back” and that whoever this woman was, she was just not letting go.
“That tenacity was what really kept his brain going until the medical professionals came,” she said, which ultimately saved his life.
No words of thanks could ever express their gratitude, according to Jim and Robyn’s son Ethan, but it still felt hugely important to him and his mother that they thank her.
“It was a long shot,” Ethan said, “but the goal was to find out, just through mutual friends or through people who may have known this individual who helped save my dad.”
With the help of social media, and ultimately a post made to a South Kingstown Facebook group upon a friend’s suggestion, Ethan and Robyn were able to find Mindy.
“When we had our call with her, all we could say was just thank you,” Ethan said. “We told her that it might not be a big deal to her, but it was a very big deal to us.”
“What she did was huge,” he added. “It might have just been instinct to her, but to us, we realize that not everyone stops — not everyone knows CPR.”
To Robyn, Mindy is literally an angel.
“She really is an angel on this Earth, because a lot of people would call 911, but they wouldn’t get out of their car,” she said. “They would think, ‘Oh, I might be putting myself in danger. What if he sues me for breaking his ribs?’”
“The outcome could have been so much worse, and I can’t thank her enough,” Robyn added. “She takes it lightly, but I will never forget her.”
Although she doesn’t remember much of what was happening around her or the other fellow good samaritans who rushed to help save Jim’s life, Mindy said she was grateful to hear from his family.
“They’re going through a very difficult time, and for them to even think about calling me, I really appreciated it,” Mindy said.
“I work in a hospital on a unit, and when one of our patients codes, we do what we can for them, and then we send them to the ICU — we don’t ever hear about the outcome,” she added. “I’m very appreciative that they took the time to let me know how he was doing.”
In addition to thanking those who literally saved her husband’s life, Robyn and Ethan hope sharing Jim’s story will inspire others to take lifesaving classes.
“I really want to appeal to people to learn CPR,” Robyn said. “Hopefully you’ll never have to use it, but my God, it can be the difference between life and death.”
The day after Jim’s heart attack, his family was thrilled to report that he is making an amazing, successful recovery at Kent Hospital. The kindness, compassion and preparedness of others who’d been complete strangers until a few days ago, according to Ethan, are the reason his father is still alive today, and something his family will never forget.
“Yesterday I was a mess, but today I’m really positive that he’s going to be home,” Robyn said. “Life’s going to change, but we’re going to be okay.”
On Wednesday, few days following the lifechanging incident, Ethan was happy to share that his father was home from the hospital and recovering nicely.