Event honors local heroes who sprang into action

Dan Mundell won’t be there to applaud his friend at today’s Red Cross Real Heroes Breakfast. He has something much more important to do.

A health and fitness teacher at Everett’s North Middle School and the assistant wrestling coach at Snohomish High, Mundell is scheduled for heart surgery — a triple bypass.

That Mundell survived to have today’s procedure is a testament to Snohomish High School wrestling coach Rob Zabel’s prompt actions and cool head. Zabel is one of nearly 20 heroes being honored this morning in a ballroom at the Tulalip Resort Casino.

The 18th annual Real Heroes Breakfast is a fundraiser for the Snohomish County Chapter of the American Red Cross. With breakfast sponsorships and donations at the event, the agency has a goal of $250,000, said Kristi Myers, the local Red Cross’ regional chief development officer. That money will stay in Snohomish County, supporting disaster relief and services to the armed forces.

It was more than a year ago — Nov. 14, 2012 — that the 57-year-old Mundell collapsed at the end of wrestling practice. His heart had stopped and he wasn’t breathing. Zabel, 37, will never forget it.

“We were in the mat room where our practices are. We do some conditioning at the end of practice, and a short series of runs,” Zabel said Monday. Finished with running, Zabel saw Mundell on the floor, perhaps to stretch.

Then he realized something was wrong.

“Dan did not get up. I got to him as he lost consciousness,” Zabel said. “All of our coaches are first-aid and CPR trained. I started it right away. I did compression only — they have changed the training. If you can keep compression going, enough oxygen gets in the lungs and bloodstream.”

In those life-or-death seconds, Zabel’s first thought was saving Mundell. He also considered the effects of the crisis on his wrestlers. “There were probably 40 to 45 students in the room. I asked — yelled at — one of my managers to call 911. The rest of the kids were evacuated from the room right away,” Zabel said. “That wasn’t something kids needed to see. They signed up to learn and work hard. That day, life got very real.”

A portable defibrillator was in the room, but Zabel didn’t use it. “Once paramedics got there, they did,” he said.

Saving someone, especially a friend, was a surreal experience. “You play it back over in your mind,” Zabel said. “I kept thinking, ‘Did that really just happen?’”

Yes it happened, and Mundell is thankful every day for Zabel’s able assistance after his cardiac arrest.

Paramedics arrived within seven minutes of being called, Zabel said. Mundell was rushed to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s Colby campus.

“On the way in, they had to shock me twice,” Mundell said. “During the surgery, they had to tell my wife I wasn’t going to make it. But they pulled me through.”

Mundell said doctors subjected his body to “hibernation” by dropping his temperature for 12 hours. In two surgeries, one right away and the other a month later, he had five stents placed in arteries that carry blood from his heart.

By the end of last year’s wrestling season, he had returned to work. “I ran a 5K on St. Patrick’s Day, faster than I had in 20 years. I was feeling great,” Mundell said.

This summer, he began having “a weird feeling” during his runs. After two types of stress tests, he learned his body was rejecting the stents.

Mundell plans to return to work after several weeks of recovery from today’s surgery.

An alumnus of Snohomish High who married his high school sweetheart, Mundell has been Zabel’s wrestling assistant since 2000. “He’s had both my kids in class,” Mundell said.

A photo from his daughter Sissy Bates-Mundell’s 2012 graduation from Snohomish High also shows Zabel. “I see that picture and thank him every day,” Mundell said.

Zabel, the wrestling coach hero, wishes his colleague a speedy recovery. Mundell said the coach has made just one request, telling his assistant: “The best way you can thank me is to come to work every day and be yourself.”

Other awards

Along with Real Heroes honorees related to 10 other incidents, two additional people are being recognized at the breakfast.

The Spirit of Red Cross Award will be given to Everett Police Sgt. Jeraud Irving. For seven years a firefighter and emergency medical technician with Fire District 11, Irving joined the Everett Police Department in 1998. Since 2011, he has worked to train all patrol officers in Snohomish County in compression-only CPR. According to the Red Cross, the time-saving training has helped Everett officers save at least five lives in the past two years.

And the Red Cross 2013 Clare Waite Humanitarian Award winner is Bob Drewel. Snohomish County executive from 1991 to 2003 and a former Everett Community College president, Drewel will soon retire as executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council.

The Red Cross is honoring Drewel’s decades of civic involvement. He has served on many boards, among them the Economic Development Council, Healthy Communities Initiative, United Way of Snohomish County and Snohomish County Tomorrow.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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