MONROE — The Anaka family was in the middle of a stressful move.
On Feb. 7, Brian Anaka decided to make one more trip to the old house on Woods Creek Road. Taylor, his 12-year-old son, insisted on coming along.
Taylor brought his cellphone. He didn’t know he’d need it to save his dad’s life.
Brian and Lisa Anaka have been married 14 years this August. He works in remodeling and she stays at home, raising Taylor and his little brother, 8-year-old Jack.
Taylor’s parents say he’s always been thoughtful, the rare child who thinks before he acts. Jack is a little more, say, energetic.
At 2:17 p.m. Feb. 7, Brian Anaka had a heart attack.
He and Taylor had just loaded a rosewood entertainment center into the U-Haul. Taylor saw his dad grab his chest and fall. Taylor thought about his dad, who tells his boys to “Just stay calm always and not to freak out, or else I won’t be able to do anything,” he said. “It was really scary to see my dad collapse like that. I’ve never felt that scared in my life.”
Taylor remembered his phone in the pocket of his sweatpants. He called 911.
The call was answered by Theresa Ramey, a dispatcher at SNOPAC 911 for nearly 18 years. Taylor told Ramey, “My Dad’s passed out. He’s breathing really heavy. He’s on the ground … we were lifting something and he passed out … Can you please hurry?”
His dad had stopped breathing. Ramey knew Taylor needed to start cardiopulmonary resuscitation, also known as CPR.
She told Taylor where to put his hands on his father’s chest, to push as hard as he could and to count loudly, so she could hear.
“Stay strong for your dad right now,” she told him. “Keep it together right now. You can cry later. There you go. Keep going. You keep it together for your dad.”
About five minutes after Taylor called 911, Monroe paramedic Corey Wenzel arrived and took over CPR. As paramedic Travis Jacobs was setting up the breathing tube, the patient’s pulse came back. He breathed.
In 14 years as a medic, Jacobs has seen what he calls “bystander CPR” save at least four lives.
“There is no doubt in my mind that (Taylor) doing CPR helped save his dad,” he said.
Later, Brian Anaka was told that every minute without CPR after a heart attack diminishes the chance of survival. “If (Taylor) didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Brian Anaka woke up from a medically induced coma days later. Lisa was there. She asked him, “Am I a friend or your wife?”
“When I told her, ‘You’re my wife,’ she bawled and bawled,” he said.
Brian Anaka spent about a week in the hospital. After he came back home, Lisa Anaka would hover her hand over his mouth at night, to make sure she could feel his breath. Sometimes she woke up and he was awake, too. She knew what he was thinking then. Each time, she reminded him that he survived.
Brian Anaka’s heart is fine now, he was told. His chest is still sore. He’s not sure when he’ll be back at work.
The timing of the attack seems extra cruel. Feb. 7 was the day before his 45th birthday. Last summer and fall, Brian and Taylor had a goal to work out and eat healthier. Together, they lost 90 pounds.
Every day gets a little better, but it’s hard to stay still and rest, he said. It’s strange now, to remember everything he used to worry about: the move, the bills, the car. The Anakas feel so thankful for family and God, friends and prayers. They are thankful to be watching “Shrek” and sharing cheesecake.
The family thanked Ramey in person last week, after listening to a 911 recording of Taylor’s call. The dispatcher was surprised that Taylor was 12. She had assumed he was in high school. She talked to him like she would her own kids.
On Monday, Taylor was honored at an assembly at Hidden River Middle School, where his favorite subject is math. He was given two certificates and a commemorative coin, and a video was played for his classmates about CPR.
Taylor is quiet at school, and always smiling, said Principal Brett Wille, whose support over the past month has made the Anakas consider him a friend.
“He’s got a really good head on his shoulders,” Wille said of the boy. “It didn’t surprise me at all that he kept his composure in that situation.”
The Anakas hope to celebrate Brian’s survival in Las Vegas later this year. It’s a place he and Lisa have enjoyed visiting, and the boys are eager to go. They’ve heard about Dad’s favorite buffet.
Every summer, the family looks forward to night swimming at Lake Tye. Jack recently achieved a tailwhip trick on his scooter on flat ground, which “is a lot more harder,” he said. At first, Jack worried his father would come home different, that he wouldn’t be so funny and silly anymore.
Brian Anaka’s the same, though his heart hurts. According to Taylor, he’s still “a really cool dad.”
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.