Officer, merchant and training save a life

Cornelius police Sgt. George Brinzey had just pulled up to Lake Norman Nutrition The Daily Shake for his favorite nutritional drink on May 28.

The last thing he expected to do was to help save a man's life.

Brinzey hadn't even gotten inside when a woman approached to say a man had collapsed outside a store across the parking lot.

Brinzey immediately ran to the man, Federal Express driver Terry Boyles, 57, of Charlotte.

Boyles' face had already turned blue. "No pulse. No breathing," Brinzey said. Boyles had suffered a massive heart attack and collapsed while on his regular delivery route to businesses in the Shops on the Green retail center off Exit 28.

Allison White heard the fall from inside the shop where she works. She thought it was a friend she'd been expecting. She was shocked to find the man on the ground, one of his feet caught in the door.

White freed Boyles' foot and made sure the unconscious man was flat on his back so she could administer the CPR she'd learned in the Air Force. That's when Brinzey arrived.

Brinzey ripped open Boyles' shirt and administered chest compressions. White gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, or rescue breathing.

Within a minute or two, Boyles was breathing again but was still unconscious. Then, just as suddenly, the breathing stopped. Brinzey and White continued CPR.

By that time, Cornelius police Sgt. Tracy Crosby and Officer Matthew Figaro had arrived with an automated external defibrillator. Many Cornelius police cars are equipped with the devices, thanks to financial contributions by local businesses. The portable electronic devices can shock the heart to re-establish its rhythm.

Brinzey had called for the backup. Steve Stetsky, owner of the Impact Plus store where White is a sales rep, called 911.

Cornelius firefighters soon arrived, as did a Medic ambulance, which took Boyles to Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in south Iredell, Brinzey said. Boyles was then flown by helicopter to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where three stents were placed in his heart.

"The doctor said I had a very, very bad heart attack," Boyles said when I called his room Thursday morning. He was preparing to be released later that day, he said.

Boyles and Brinzey think about the "what-if's" of May 28.

What if Boyles had lingered a bit longer at the nearby Shops at Fresh Market retail center, where he first began to feel ill?

What if Brinzey had turned around on Torrence Chapel Road and passed up his favorite Wild Berry Strawberry nutritional drink? He had been pressed for time, but he had begrudgingly told himself, "OK, I'll go" for the drink.

Brinzey has been with the police department for 61/2 years and had never before administered CPR by himself, but it's what he and other officers are trained to do, he said. White is the hero, he said: a citizen stepping up to help save someone's life.

Boyles said both deserve recognition. He planned to drive to Cornelius to thank them.

"They are my heroes," he said.