ELYRIA — Shortly after 5 a.m. last Thursday, Mitzi Baird said her husband, Jack, jerked his arm, hitting her as they slept.
She thought he was dreaming, but as she turned to rouse him, the retired Elyria councilman who returned to office after a several-year hiatus, she learned the arm movement was probably an involuntary response to a heart attack he was having while lying in their bed.
Baird was unresponsive.
“I just immediately started CPR. It was the only thing I could think of doing,” Mitzi said. “I screamed for my daughter to call 911.”
Having the presence of mind to do CPR likely saved Baird’s life. The 65-year-old Republican, who won re-election Tuesday night to claim another term as an at-large representative, suffered what Mitzi Baird describes as a cardiac arrest triggered by ventricular fibrillation, an often-fatal form of arrhythmia characterized by rapid, irregular fibrillar twitching of the ventricles in place of normal contractions, resulting in a loss of pulse.
“It was scary for a moment,” Mitzi said.
Baird, who was able to answer questions Wednesday over the phone from his hospital bed at EMH Elyria Medical Center, said he got lucky.
“I was worried there for a minute, but I guess you can say my wife saved my life,” he said. “I stopped breathing, and she was right there doing CPR until LifeCare showed up.”
Once Baird arrived at EMH, Mitzi said doctors almost immediately decided her husband was a candidate for therapeutic hypothermia.
Doctors lowered his body temperature using one of two state-of-the-art cooling therapy machines the hospital received in 2011. The protocol allowed his body’s metabolism to slow down, decreasing the workload on his heart, kidney, brains, lungs and other organs and kept vital tissues from dying due to the lack of blood flow experienced during a heart attack.
“It is amazing that his treatment exists in a hospital right here in our community,” Mitzi said. “I don’t think Jack could have gotten better care anywhere else.”
Since being admitted to the hospital, close to Election Day, Baird’s condition has steadily improved. Tuesday he was able to sign his name on an absentee ballot, and by Wednesday morning he was bugging his wife for election updates.
Mitzi Baird said didn’t allow visitors Tuesday even though her husband was clamoring for information.
“You know Jack, he will tell you he works 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said. “We are doing good. I just want to get him home and then he can get back to City Council.”
Baird said he looks forward to getting back to work.
“I’m very thankful. It was a pretty good race, and really, I wasn’t expecting to be back,” he said. “I thank everyone who voted for me.”
Baird was the second-highest vote-getter in the five-way race for four seats. Mike Lotko finished with 4,766 votes, Baird with 4,557 votes, Tom Callahan with 4,527 votes and Vic Stewart with 4,236 votes, according to unofficial results. Newcomer Chuck Martin, also a Democrat, received 3,976 votes.