Kingwood Eagle Scout saves his grandfather twice in less than a month with CPR

Christopher Lewis will tell you he’s no hero, but the 24-year-old Kingwood resident managed to save his grandfather with CPR on two different occasions within a month.

Despite tremendous odds, his grandfather survived not one, but two major heart attacks and wouldn’t be alive without a little bit of luck.

Vietnam Air Force veteran Jerome Happ, 75, was finishing dinner with the rest of his family at their home in Kingwood on Oct. 7 when he started having symptoms of cardiac arrest. Meanwhile, Lewis had just finished a 12-hour shift for a local charity where he’s employed.

“There really wasn’t any warning. He stood up to throw away his plate and collapsed on the floor,” Lewis said. “I thought maybe he had stood up too fast or something, but my first worry was when he fell, he hit his head on the couch on the way down.” 

Lewis searched for a pulse and couldn’t find one, so he immediately dialed 911 and then handed the phone to his mom. Lewis then turned his attention to his grandfather and began chest compressions.

“That was part of the training for first aid in Scouts (BSA), to dial 911 first, then hand the phone off to someone else nearby if you’re the only one capable of doing CPR,” he said.

For 10 grueling minutes, he administered chest compressions with his grandmother, Virginia, by his side.

“I kept telling him how much I needed him and stay with us,” she recalled.

The CPR continued until the ambulance arrived and paramedics took over.

“Altogether he was deprived of oxygen for about 15 minutes,” his grandmother said.

Paramedics and Lewis did CPR until exhaustion, and eventually deployed a medical device called The Thumper, or “a mechanical CPR device designed to deliver continuous chest compressions to a patient in a state of acute cardiac arrest,” according to the website.

Happ arrived at the hospital some 40 minutes later after several attempts to stabilize his condition.

When the ambulance left, Lewis stayed behind to take care of the household pets. Virginia went to the hospital with her daughter Catrina where they stayed by Happ’s side. 

During the time he was administering CPR, he said he wasn’t frightened.

“But the moment the ambulance left, it all sort of hit me,” he said. “The thing that kept going through my mind was ‘did I do enough,’” he asked himself.

However, Lewis wasn’t alone long.

He reached out to his scout community to tell them what happened and within the hour, his friends were there by his side, including the nurse who taught and certified him in CPR.

The wait for the phone call from the hospital on his grandfather’s condition was agonizing, he said. Happ’s life teetered in the balance through the night, with as many as 14 lines connected to life-saving equipment. 

“We were getting messages that he only has so long to live, and with every message came word that they couldn’t stabilize him,” the scout said.

The family learned around midnight that Happ was stable and would likely make it through the night.

Happ survived and doctors implanted a defibrillator pacemaker in his chest. After two weeks in the hospital, he spent a couple of weeks in recovery, thankful that the new technology didn’t force doctors to have to crack open his chest.

Everything seemed positive and Happ was on his way to a full recovery until Nov. 5.

“I had just gotten home from a 12-hour shift, and literally climbed into bed and was under the covers about to pass out when my grandmom screamed for me,” he said.

He sprung into action again performing CPR on his lifeless grandfather.

“I’d say I did it for a minute, tops. Then he coughed, and started breathing on his own,” he said.

The ambulance rushed him again to HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood, where he didn’t have a pulse again.

“I was told I could go back to his room where they were taking care of him and when I got into the hallway where he was, I could see a gentleman on top of him doing CPR again because they lost him. I just lost it all together,” his wife said.

Happ was stabilized and doctors diagnosed him with heart failure and blood clots in his lungs.

Later, in surgery, an Impella RP Flex Smart Assist device was placed in his neck to help the damaged right side of his heart, and doctors Marloe Prince and Robert Salazar, interventional cardiologists at HCAHH Kingwood used the FlowTriever during the thrombectomy to remove the blood clots from his lungs.

It was only the second time in the nation that the newly approved Impella RP Flex with the Smart Assist device had been used on a patient for right ventricle heart failure treatment.

His wife Virginia said he coded four times during his two incidents.

Happ has recovered and walks comfortably with a walker now. He likes having his grandson close after he’s saved his life twice.

“I’m happy that he’s here, but in terms of my saving him, I don’t know how to feel about that,” Lewis said.

The Eagle Scout says he doesn’t feel like a hero but would do it again, and again.