One morning last month, just after pedaling up a long hill through Golden Eagle Estates that leads to a Pleasanton ridge trailhead, Karl Wenzler, 46, collapsed from cardiac arrest in front of his friends, Brian Martinez and Joe Narciso.
The three friends regularly ride their mountain bikes together, and on this day they planned to continue up a steep, unpaved trail. Martinez, an Alameda County Sheriff's deputy, and Narciso, an executive with Safeway, rushed to assist Wenzler, calling 911 for paramedics and to administer CPR since their friend was unconscious and not breathing.
Assisted over the phone by an emergency medical dispatcher from the Alameda County Regional Emergency Communications Center, Martinez and Narciso worked together to repeatedly pump Wenzler's chest several hundred times, followed each time by mouth-to-mouth breaths for nearly 30 minutes. The physical effort to keep him alive was exhausting, and the dispatcher offered specific instructions and encouragement.
"I know it's tiring, but you guys are doing a really good job," said the dispatcher.
Eventually a hiker, Michelle Stearns, also assisted with CPR until the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department transported Wenzler to ValleyCare Hospital. Thanks to quick thinking and the tireless work of Narciso and Martinez, their cycling companion is expected to make a full recovery.
Memory lives on: After more than two decades, Internet accessibility and restricted budgets have led to the difficult decision to close the Ryan Comer Cancer Resource Center, founded in 1991 as part of the ValleyCare Health Library.
The center was named after Amador Valley High School student Ryan Comer, who was stricken in the late 1980s with a rare form of pediatric cancer.
Comer's mother, Billie, who researched the cancer without any Internet in those days, learned about an experimental treatment.
"We had high hopes for a lifesaving bone marrow transplant," said Billie, who explained that she and her son flew to Minnesota 23 years ago last month to consult with doctors.
"At the time, I was working for a small bank in downtown Pleasanton and learned of Ryan's illness from Sharrell Michelotti and Pat Kernan. Since insurance did not cover the treatment, we opened an account to accept donations, and the community rallied, raising in a few short weeks more than $180,000.
"I'll never forget Ryan walking into the bank one day with a couple of friends, smiling, wearing a baseball cap, and looking strong despite his illness. We all had high hopes, but sadly, Ryan passed away before the treatment could take place.
"I remember writing out the checks to pay the balance of Ryan's medical bills, with the remainder of $150,000 establishing an annual scholarship benefiting high school students at Amador and Foothill high schools.
"Despite the closure of the cancer resource center -- whose printed materials will be donated to local municipal libraries -- Ryan will continue to live on not just through those who knew him, but through the high school students who are awarded scholarships every spring to help them achieve their dreams."
Reach Jim Ott at firstname.lastname@example.org.