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September 21, 2012 12:10 am


Sharon and Rick Buker say Caroline County dispatcher and rescue squad combined to save her life.


Rick Buker was getting ready for work while his wife, Sharon, peacefully slept.

That was the Caroline County man's normal Saturday morning routine, but something was different on Sept. 1, around 7:15 a.m.

While brushing his hair, he heard her make a strange noise.

"Her breathing was very laborious," he said. "That's really the only way I can describe it."

After calling her name several times and getting no response, he dialed 911.

He was frantic, but was able to listen to dispatcher Debbie Schools as she calmly instructed him over the phone on how to do CPR.

He dragged his wife off the bed, got her to a flat surface on the kitchen floor and, as best he could without any type of training, he followed Schools' directions step by step.

Still no response.

Although it seemed like hours to Buker, volunteers with the Ladysmith Rescue Squad arrived at the Buker home on Bull Church Road within minutes.

Critical care paramedic Erica Cutrona took over the CPR, while Victor Podbiel-ski, a paramedic and firefighter, hooked up the automated external defibrillator, which helps the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.

"With one shock, we got a pulse," Cutrona said. "That never happens."

Sharon Buker was then transported to Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, where she stayed for five days.

"I was asleep and I don't remember anything except waking up, thinking it was 2006," she said.

Rick Buker said she had to have a breathing tube put in and initially communicated by squeezing his hand to let him know she heard him.

"It could have been so much worse," he said.

Doctors told them she suffered from broken heart syndrome, which is similar to a heart attack and can be triggered by a sudden emotional stress, such as the death of a loved one.

Rick Buker said she had been dealing with the daily stress of life and raising her 13-year-old grandson.

Besides some trouble with short-term memory and some scrapes and bruises from being dragged, Buker said his wife is now improving and is expected to recover.

She celebrated her 59th birthday last Wednesday.

"I can't do the things I used to do, like gardening and being active," she said. "I'm trying to be patient, which is really hard for me."

But she's a lot better off than some patients who had her condition.

In the 12 years that Cutrona has been a paramedic, she said, she has seen many who have not survived.

"I truly believe the CPR that her husband did under the direction of Debbie Schools is what saved her," Cutrona said. "He gives us the credit, but he is truly the one that saved her."

Buker said he can't give enough praise to the Ladysmith Rescue Squad and the doctors at the hospital, who took care of his wife of nearly 34 years.

Since the incident, the Caroline paramedics have been to visit her three times to see how she's doing.

"We're still amazed," Cutrona said. "[Buker's story] is one of the ones you read about in the textbooks, but hardly ever see."

While Sharon Buker can't do a lot of the things she used to do, she still can cook.

And as a form of thank-you, she is cooking a lasagna dinner tonight for the members of the rescue squad who are responsible for her being here today and for going above and beyond.

The Bukers also sent a dozen roses to the dispatcher.

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419

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