Feb. 27, 2012, started out like many other days for Rusty Medford as he headed to the Drill Hall for a few games of racquetball. Little did he know he would soon be fighting for his life.
Had it not been for the quick response of Drill Hall managers Harold "Hal" Willard and Chuck Jacobs, Medford might have lost that battle.
Flash forward to July 2, when elected and base officials honored Willard, the Drill Hall fitness and sports director, and Jacobs, assistant director, at the Frank Knox building for their life-saving response.
Medford wasn't present to see his rescuers recognized, because he was celebrating his new lease on life with a family vacation in Ireland. He said, however, in an email, "Because of their quick response and exceptional efforts I am able to live a normal life."
In the late morning of Feb. 27, Willard recalled, a gym staffer appeared in his office to alert him to "a situation" on the racquetball court. Willard said he didn't initially grasp the severity of the problem.
"Usually, when you hear of a situation on the court, somebody's blown out a knee or gotten hit in the eye with a ball or caught a racquet in the back of the head." Medford, however, had suffered a heart attack.
Willard and Jacobs found Medford whom they recognized as a longtime patron face down against a wall of the court. They saw that he was not breathing and beginning to turn blue. Willard told Jacobs he was going back to his office to retrieve the CPR mask he had in his desk. Jacobs, meanwhile, began administering CPR.
By the time Willard had returned with the mask, a Naval District Washington Fire/Emergency Services ambulance crew had arrived, continuing CPR. At first, the crew was not getting a pulse and administered a shock from an automated external defibrillator.
Medford's heartbeat returned, but he was having difficulty breathing. The crew suctioned his airway and used a bag valve. They then took Medford to St. Mary's hospital. He was airlifted the next morning to Washington Hospital, where he underwent angioplasty to clear two partially blocked arteries.
"They tell me I did not specifically have a heart attack but had a sudden cardiac arrest, where my heart basically had an electrical malfunction and stopped," Medford said.
Doctors installed a defibrillator, and after three days in intensive care they sent him home. He was back at work in another week.
Battalion Chief Charles Adams credited the actions of Jacobs and Willard as "a link in the chain of survival."
Keith Fairfax of the Bay District Volunteer Fire Co., on hand for the July 2 ceremony, said that even people who have had training in CPR often fail when encountering such situations, and gave Willard and Jacobs credit for being prepared.
Jacobs said this was not the first occasion on which he administered CPR in a real-life emergency. Asked whether this was his first success with it, he replied, "My winning percentage is pretty good."
The ceremony came as a surprise to the two men, who said they'd been summoned to the Knox Building to attend a meeting. State Sen. Roy Dyson and St. Mary's County commissioners Francis Jack Russell and Todd Morgan awarded each proclamations from state and local governments.
Pax River Commanding Officer Capt. Ted Mills presided. "Part of what's great about being part of a service organization is that you get to see people do extraordinary things," he said. "Not because they want to be a superhero, but because that's just who they are."