The Everett couple isn't worried about getting something for each other this year.
After all, they already have been given the greatest gift they can imagine: Farley's life.
Earlier this month, the Wallerstedts stopped by Everett Fire Station No. 5. Farley, 60, was able to shake hands with some of the people who saved his life Nov. 14.
One by one, he greeted the paramedics and firefighters. They came to his aid when he went into what medical officials call sudden cardiac death. In simple terms, that's when the heart no longer is able to support the body.
“I don't remember any of these guys,” Farley said. “I don't remember anything at all, but I'm sure glad you were there.”
It was a good save, paramedics and doctors said — one made possible because Marsha Wallerstedt acted quickly and decisively.
The couple was watching a TV comedy that rainy Sunday evening, sipping hot chocolate and bantering back and forth.
Farley, a building inspector, had begun chemotherapy Oct. 28 for a cancerous tumor at the base of his tongue. Watching TV together was a relaxing diversion.
When Marsha fired back a one-liner, Farley didn't laugh. She looked over to see his chin dropped to his chest. He was drooling and slumped over in his olive La-Z-Boy recliner.
Marsha couldn't find a heartbeat. At 6:32 p.m., she called 911 on her cell phone. She pulled Farley by his ankles onto the plush tan carpet in the living room.
Marsha, who once worked for the American Heart Association, immediately recognized her husband's plight. She also knew of recent changes recommended for people giving CPR. The new emphasis is on chest compressions to keep the blood circulating.
During the five minutes it took medics to reach the mobile home on Fleming Street, Marsha completed four sets of 30 compressions.
“His wife doing the CPR probably did the most good for him,” paramedic Russell Jack said. “Really, the CPR was the key.”
Marsha relied on knowledge and adrenaline. She pushed desperately on her husband's chest despite a painful shoulder injury that has limited her own arm movements.
“I can't even vacuum or wash my car but apparently I can crack ribs,” she can now say with a laugh.
When medics arrived, Farley was unconscious and unresponsive.
Marsha watched them shock Farely's heart with a defibrillator five times to restore it to a normal rhythm. They also cleared his airway, inserted IVs and administered drugs to stabilize his heart rate.
The keys to surviving and recovering in cases of sudden cardiac death are quick CPR and defibrillation. Farley got both, said Dr. Eric Haas, a cardiologist with the Western Washington Medical Group who treated Farley. His physical and neurological prognosis is promising, Haas said.
“It is really less what I did and more what his wife did and the paramedics did,” Haas said. “That was 99 percent of what he needed. The rest of it is almost automatic.”
Marsha refuses to believe that it was that simple.
For four days, Farley was in a medically induced coma in the Intensive Care Unit at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. Doctors lowered his body temperature to 94 degrees for the first 24 hours. The cooling strategy is aimed at helping the brain recover.
Six days after he was rushed to the emergency room, Farley was wheeled to the curb and climbed into the passenger seat of his car. Two days later, he began radiation treatment for his cancer.
On Dec. 8, less than a month after he collapsed, Farley walked into the fire hall with his wife.
There were handshakes, hugs and thank yous. Marsha handed out compact discs with Christmas music.
“This kind of outcome makes it all worthwhile,” Jack said.
At the Wallerstedt home, the holiday season seems a little slower and a lot more special this year.
It's not so much about gifts and to-do lists, Marsha said.
“Everything looks different. Everything just has more of a spirity meaning,” she said. “It really brings you back to the bottom line of what is important.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, email@example.com
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