‘He was dead’: Arkansas man recovers after 20 minutes without heartbeat, oxygen

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KLRT/KARK) – “Live every day as if it’s your last.” 

It’s a phrase that has a whole new meaning for Larry Brown. Nearly one year ago the 71-year-old died, but thanks to a series of events and a team of angels, he was brought back to life.

Was it an act of God, a miracle, or an unexplained phenomenon? Whatever it was, it saved Larry’s life.

In July of 2020 on a hot summer day, he was sitting in the street on a small plastic bench in front of his house in Maumelle, Arkansas.

He was using his favorite hatchet and chopping away unwanted weeds, when out of nowhere things went fuzzy and then pitch black. Then Larry fell off his bench onto the hot pavement.

“I saw … it looked like two angels … walking toward me,” he said. “Then I woke up.”  

larry brown

“Some people think they’re having a heart attack and they know it. I had no warning or anything,” he remembered. “I just went. It was that fast.”

Larry was in sudden cardiac arrest and all alone. Luckily his neighbors, Gary and Linda Coburn, just happened to be returning from an evening walk and saw him lying in the street.

Linda immediately ran into Larry’s house to tell Larry’s wife, Elizabeth, that something was wrong. Gary went straight to his friend to see if he was hurt.

“He is breathing. It’s labored. It’s not right. But before they get out there … he stops … totally,” Gary Coburn said.

When Elizabeth finally made it outside and saw her husband lying in the street, she immediately feared the worst.

“I thought he had already died,” she said.

By then, Linda had already dialed 911 and had a dispatcher on the phone who told her help was on the way.

The clock was ticking.

Neighbors fight to save a life

Bahani Agalheir had plans that day to take his daughter to a trampoline park to get some exercise. But they were running late because, for some reason, his daughter said she wanted to take a shower before they left. He thought that was strange considering she would most likely work up a sweat at the trampoline park.

As they were leaving and heading down the street, Bahani saw his neighbors circling Larry, who was still lying in the street. He immediately parked his car and jumped out to see if he could help.

The dispatcher told Linda to start doing chest compressions, but she wasn’t strong enough. That’s when Bahani jumped in and followed the dispatcher’s instructions.

“’I need you to pump the chest hard and fast and at least twice per second… two inches deep,’” he recalled the dispatcher saying. “I was afraid I was going to break his chest cause I was pushing so hard. So, she was counting with me 1, 2, 3, 4.” 

On the 911 call, Linda can be heard saying, “Granddad can you hear us?” but there was no response.

Eight minutes had passed since Linda first dialed 911, but it seemed like an eternity for everyone else. That’s when Maumelle firefighter, Lt. Jacob Haley arrived.

‘He was dead’

Haley quickly assessed Larry’s condition, and the situation seemed grim.

“He was dead,” the firefighter recalled. “He was cold and clammy, and he was dead.” 

As Bahani continued to do chest compressions, Haley grabbed his automated external defibrillator to try and bring Larry back to life. A shock was delivered but there was still no pulse.

MEMS was next to arrive, and paramedic Alexis Bilbruck and her partner took over.

“He was in v-fib, meaning his heart was not beating but the electricity in it was causing an unorganized rhythm,” Billbruck explained.

Simply put, Larry’s condition was not good. They immediately gave him oxygen and hooked him up to an automated chest compression machine, which helps circulate blood to the brain and other vital organs allowing paramedics to focus their attention on what else needs to be done.

In this case, that meant shocking Larry’s heart a second time.

“We didn’t get a response,” said Bilbruck.

By now, Larry had been without a heartbeat and oxygen for nearly 20 minutes. Time was running out, so a third shock was given. This time it worked, but his heartbeat was extremely weak, and he was still unresponsive.

He was loaded up into an ambulance and rushed to Baptist Hospital. Doctors eventually found an 80% blockage in one of his arteries, so they immediately put in a stent.

Larry was still unresponsive and heavily sedated.

“There were several doctors and nurses, and they had him on the machines and everything breathing at that point,” Elizabeth said explaining that the machines were keeping him alive at that point.

To help reduce possible brain damage and improve his chances of waking up, his caregivers tried therapeutic hypothermia. The treatment involves lowering the body temperature to 89 degrees and then slowly warming it back up.

Doctors feared that if or when that happened, he wouldn’t be able to walk or talk. Five days later something happened and it’s the only thing Larry remembers.

“I saw … it looked like two angels … walking toward me,” he said. “Then I woke up.”  

‘It’s a miracle’

What surprised them, even more, was that he was able to talk and eventually walk. There were no long-lasting side effects, despite being without oxygen or a heartbeat for nearly 25 minutes.

“You don’t know why you’re singled out or that you’re blessed, and other people aren’t,” Elizabeth said of her husband’s recovery. “You don’t know. You never will know.”

Neighbor Linda Coburn is still in disbelief.

“It’s amazing. It is amazing,” she said. “It’s wonderful. It’s a miracle.”

Bahani doesn’t feel like he helped save Larry’s life, saying “I feel like it’s above me honestly.”

As for Larry, he believes God played a role, along with a handful of angels who he calls friends and neighbors.

“It all had to work together,” he said. “There’s got to be a reason for me to still be alive.”

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