Be Like Bill – Jeff Utzinger
In this episode of You Fit Here, CS interviews her good friend Jeff, whose life was saved by a stranger named Bill. Jeff was/is a man of good health and strong faith, but Sudden Cardiac Arrest does not discriminate and in his case, there is still no explanation for why he went out for a run, collapsed, and almost died. This interview will inspire you to look for ways to “Be like Bill” and we hope that you do!
(Bill is on the right. This man… saved a life!)
On June 20, 2017, Jeff went out for a typical run, and about 2.5 miles into the run, he collapsed. Though he doesn’t have any memories surrounding this, he would soon learn that he suffered from Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). It took some time, but Jeff shares that you have to believe in something to get through a hard thing:
“You have to believe in something to understand the chain of events that happened that day.” -Jeff
He doesn’t remember anything surrounding the event, or the following 4 days in the hospital, so everything he knows to be true now is based on stories from his loved ones. What he knows for sure about the chain of events that day is that:
1) His wife came home from a run just before he left, and she told him that his usual route wasn’t open due to some construction.
2) About 300 yards before he rounded a corner and collapsed, he passed his daughter Jennifer who tried to get his attention, but couldn’t, because Jeff had his headphones in.
3) Bill, the man who saved his life, went a different way than he does 9/10 times. If Jeff had collapsed the next day, Bill would pretty possibly not have been there to save him.
“I’ve listened to this 911 tape dozens of times. And I gotta tell you, Colleen. He was amazing.”
Bill called 911, performed CPR with the help of the 911 operator, and tried to save Jeff’s life. He was not breathing, his heart was not beating, he was blue, and looked to be in about in his mid 60’s. (Jeff was in his mid 40’s on this day). Soon after the call and CPR, a first responder showed up with an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) to shock his heart back into rhythm. The EMT arrived shortly after that and took Jeff to the hospital as a John Doe, because his phone was locked and he wasn’t carrying ID. The first person to call Jeff’s phone was his beautiful wife Christine, who was told that her husband was in an accident, and she got to the hospital as quickly as she could, but no one could give her any answers. The assumption at the time was that Jeff had a stroke.
Christine cashed in all her chips when she prayed that morning. She was relieved to find out that he did not have a stroke, but would have to wait a while longer to learn what actually happened and why. She sat at his bed side not knowing if he would be ok, and it was when Jeff heard his kids’ voices that he started fighting the restraints and tried to wake up.
When he finally did wake up, he was asked 3 questions:
1) Q: What year is it | A: 2014 (wrong)
2) Q: Who is the President | A: Barack Obama (wrong)
3) Q: Do you know who this is (pointing to his wife) | A: (smiling like a lovestruck fool) That’s my wife… Christine (phew!)
To this day there is no medical or physical reason this happened. After a multitude of tests and still no answers, Jeff went home to recover. Once home and recovering, he had a hard time understanding why this happened. He worked out and took good care of himself and he struggled to reason with it. Even though he knew he should just be thankful, he wrestled with unanswered questions and would forever. It all happened so fast, and it took some time, but he finally got to the place where he understood that he might never have an answer to why this happened. He realized that because we are human, it’s ok to get upset over the little things, but going through everything he went through just helped him to put things into perspective, and not stay bothered for long.
Jeff sought counsel from his Priest, Father Pat, who told him in so many words: “You’re human. It doesn’t change how you’re hard wired; the natural order of things and emotions. But you’ve learned something now that some people don’t learn in their lives and that is that… we are not in control.”
Hearing that is really hard to hear for someone like Jeff, who is an A type personality, and driven by success and experiences, but when he started thinking about all the things that led him to this event, he realized that there is beauty in not knowing all the answers.
“At the end of the day, we are on a path, there is a plan, and my story wasn’t at the end yet.”
Jeff is finding his true purpose every single day by doing things like… telling his story on a podcast! He is raising awareness by sharing his story, he is raising money to get as many AED’s in as many places as possible, by selling some REALLY cool t-shirts (linked below), and by sharing facts like these:
♥ ϟ | SCA is NOT a heart attack – rather than a “plumbing” issue, SCA is an electrical malfunctioning of the heart
♥ ϟ | SCA can happen to anyone, anytime – it doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender, race, or level of fitness
♥ ϟ | 1,000 people in the U.S. will die from SCA today; 365,000 people in the U.S per year – it’s a leading killer and takes the lives of more people than Lung, Colon, Breast, and Prostate cancer…COMBINED
♥ ϟ | Only 7% of SCA victims survive.
♥ ϟ | 45% of SCA victims survive when a bystander calls 911, administers CPR, and an AED is available and used.
Jeff might never have all the answers, but he is at peace with that and he has found his purpose. Because things ended how they did (happily), he is able to let this horrible thing that happened propel him to save others with his gift of talking and leading and educating! The mantra “Be like Bill” has given Jeff the fuel and provided him with an initiative to help others understand how they can do amazing things. He wants you to know that you CAN make that call. We can all be grateful. We can all take things for granted, but we are all blessed every single day to be here, and it doesn’t have to take almost dying to hop on that train. Your second chance can start right now.
“I don’t know that too many of us will be faced with an opportunity to save a life. But we have opportunities every day to change a life.”
From this conversation we hope you are inspired to… be kind. Be aware of your surroundings. Make a difference. Let go of the things you can’t control. Soak up the knowledge that is out there. Adopt a better attitude. Be like Bill. Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your story. It will undoubtedly make a difference to somebody out there and that, to us, is worth everything.
To learn more about the importance of bystander intervention and AED’s in saving lives, please click HERE!
To buy a kick butt comfy shirt that helps raise money to get AEDs in as many schools as possible, go to: Be Like Bill Shop
We are 2 Colleens who share a passion to make the world a kinder place. We’re so happy you’re here!
We started recording our conversations.
Mondays get an undeserved bad rep.
There’s always a lot more behind our messages.
We really like to make people smile.