The last thing Ron Raidy remembers was shooting off a cannon.
The Bartlett man and his Civil War re-enactment group, Stanford’s Battery, were nearing the end of the Hinsdale July Fourth parade. The Confederate artillery unitdraws a lot of interest wherever it goes, especially when they fire the bronze cannon perched on its carriage.
"We had pushed the cannon for more than a mile," Raidy said, "but I felt fine. I didn’t feel anything coming on."
Instead of hearing the crowd’s cheer, the 61-year-old collapsed in full cardiac arrest. On Thursday he was recovering from quadruple bypass surgery performed Wednesday at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital.
"It’s like a miracle," Raidy said.
By all accounts, Raidy is one lucky man. Although he had no history of heart trouble and he was in good shape leading up to the parade — from pushing a cannon for the last three years, he quips — he nearly died in his boots.
"His timing couldn’t have been better," said Kevin Baker, a firefighter and paramedic with the Hinsdale Fire Department. "The (Adventist Hinsdale) hospital float was right behind him, so there were a lot of medical personnel right there."
As even better luck would have it, a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythms was watching the parade with his family, taking in the Confederate group.
"I noticed all the commotion when he went down," said Dr. Greg Lewis of Hinsdale-based Illinois Heart and Vascular. "When he wasn’t getting up, I went over and found that he was unconscious, not breathing and without a pulse."
Lewis recognized Raidy was in danger of dying. He immediately began administering CPR, staying with it until Hinsdale Police Officer Tim Lennox arrived with an automatic external defibrillator. The AED shocked Raidy enough to resuscitate him, and Hinsdale paramedics took him to the hospital.
Firefighters said they see too many cardiac arrest cases that don’t have happy endings.
"We see a cardiac incident from time to time," Baker said, "but what we don’t see is one of them go down in front of us.
"Just knowing he has had a successful outcome," he added, "makes all of our work and training worthwhile."
Lewis concurred, adding that while he diagnoses heart rhythms every day, he never expected to be doing it on his day off.
"When a cardiac arrest happens outside of the hospital, your only hope is that someone is there to witness it, and someone has immediate access to a defibrillator," he said. "In this case, he had both of those. Were it not for those, he would have been dead."
On Thursday, Raidy said he felt "good" and was "getting better." He works in cargo customs compliance for Air Canada at O’Hare Airport, which will have to live without him for a while.
His biggest disappointment, however, was missing Civil War Days in Wauconda.